June-29, 1950: The Miracle on Grass (US 1, England 0)
On June 29, 1950, the United States played heavily favored England in the initial group round of the 1950 World Cup in Brazil. England was playing in its first World Cup (having boycotted the three prior tournaments) and won their opening game against Chile 2-1, while the U.S. had lost its opener to Spain 3-1.
At the time, the English had a reputation as the “Kings of Football”,with a post-war record of 23 wins, 4 losses, and 3 draws. They had beaten the Italians 4–0 and the Portuguese 10–0 in Lisbon two weeks before that. Conversely, the Americans, despite having finished third in the inaugural 1930 World Cup, had lost their last seven international matches (including the 1934 World Cup and 1948 Summer Olympics) by the combined score of 45–2, including heavy losses to Italy (7–1), Norway (11–0) and Northern Ireland (5–0). The odds were 3–1 the English would win the Cup, and 500–1 for the U.S.
The U.S. scored in the 38th minute and then held on to stun the entire world.
The upset was made into a movie in 2005, “The Game of Their Lives”.
The US lost their next game to Chile 5-2 and ended up tied for 3rd in the group with England which also lost its final game. Both were eliminated since only group leaders advanced.
The US would virtually disappear from world soccer after that loss. It would not be until:
- 1990 – that the US would qualify for the World Cup again;
- 1994 – that the US would win a game;
- 2002 – that a US player was named part of all World Cup team; and
- 2010 – that the US would face England again in World Cup play. They won 1-1.