In 1998, the U.S. Soccer Federation launched Project 2010, a venture that was supposed to put the USMNT in position to compete for a world championship by the 2010 World Cup. Obviously, they fell short of reaching that goal, but they have made progress, especially this past year.
In fact, U.S. soccer hasn’t made more progress in a single year than the progress that was made in 2013, a year that has changed everything.
The year actually couldn’t have started any worse for the U.S. They opened the year with a scoreless draw against Canada before starting the final round of 2014 World Cup Qualifying with a loss to Honduras. That loss led to widespread skepticism about new coach Jurgen Klinsmann, which was accompanied by media reports that U.S. players were unhappy with Klinsmann and the direction of the team.
For a moment, it looked like U.S. soccer was about to unravel and like 2013 would turn into a disaster for the USMNT, but a qualifying win against Costa Rica in an epic snowstorm in Colorado turned everything around. That win was followed by an historic draw against Mexico in a World Cup Qualifying match in Estadio Azteca, which is one of several historic firsts to happen for U.S. soccer since Klinsmann took over.
Summer came, and the U.S. upset Klinsmann’s homeland of Germany 4-3, and followed that historic win with three straight victories in World Cup Qualifying to bring themselves to the top of the table despite their shaky start. Those wins began what would become a 12-game winning streak that included a dominating performance in the 2013 Gold Cup.
The U.S. would go on to close out its 2014 World Cup Qualifying campaign with wins in its final three matches. By doing so, they qualified for their seventh consecutive World Cup, finished atop the CONCACAF Hexagonal, and capped a run of 15 wins in 16 matches, with 13 of those matches being competitive (non-friendly matches).
In the end, the U.S. won 16 of its 23 matches in 2013, while losing only four. Despite plenty of struggles and a little bit of controversy early in the year, Klinsmann ultimately raised the national team’s level of play considerably, and they have the results to back it up. Not only have they reasserted their dominance in CONCACAF, but the U.S. now has to be viewed as a viable contender heading into the 2014 World Cup.
That was the original hope of Project 2010, and now a it has finally come true few years later.
Such a statement wouldn’t have been true a year ago, or at any point in U.S. soccer history. But, what the national team has accomplished this year, how they’ve played and the results they’ve gotten has changed that, which is why 2013 will be remembered as the year that changed everything for U.S. soccer forever.