The story behind the USA-England World Cup rivalry

The for the first time US Men’s National Team faced England in the World Cup, in 1950 a miracle happened. The hastily assembled USA team – which was partly made up of amateur players who held down day jobs, including as teachers, dishwashers and postmen – knew England had the stronger side. “We certainly had no idea we were going to beat them,” former US defender Harry Keough reflected decades later. “But we figured we could give them a fight for it.”

That battle came to a head in the 37th minute of the first half, when Haitian-born American forward Joe Gaetjens managed to get enough of the ball to put it into the English goal. England never recovered and the game ended with a 1-0 win for the USA. The result was so unthinkable that many news outlets, including New York Timesassumed the reported result was a typo.

U.S. forward Joe Gaetjens is carried away by cheering fans after the U.S. team beat England 1-0 in a soccer World Cup match in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, June 28, 1950. (AP)

American forward Joe Gaetjens is carried away by cheering fans after Team USA beat England 1-0 in a soccer World Cup match in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, June 28, 1950.


The last surviving member of the 1950 American squad died in 2018, and few people today will remember this match. Still, his legacy looms large over the soccer rivalry between the United States and England, whose teams are due to face each other on Friday at Doha’s Al Bait Stadium. The last time these two nations faced each other at a men’s World Cup was more than 10 years ago in South Africa. It ended in a 1-1 draw. Although England is favorite to win this match in Qatar, American fans are hoping their team can pull off a miracle again.

Read more: Meet the 22-year-old star who could make Team USA a World Cup contender

Recent history doesn’t bode so well for the U.S. The team qualified for this World Cup after failed to do so four years ago in what was seen as a major setback in efforts to elevate the world’s most popular game to the American sports scene – Good luck of the US women’s national team though. Against England, in particular, the U.S. men’s team lost the vast majority of their matches—in fact, all but a group-stage victory at the 1950 World Cup in Brazil and a 2-0 win at the 1993 U.S. Cup. of the USA is significantly younger and less experienced than the Three Lions (as the English team is known), who arrived in Qatar after great performances last year UEFA European Football Championship as well as the 2018 World Cup.

But if the past is any guide, neither side should make any assumptions about how Friday’s game will play out. England coach Gareth Southgate warned against complacency at a postgame press conference on Monday, noting that Team USA “will come at us full throttle.” And American midfielder Christian Pulisic warned about it in the days leading up to the tournament. “We’re not looking at the odds and we’re not at the World Cup just to make up the numbers,” he told Britain’s Daily Mirror. “We’re going, we’re going to give it our all every game we play, we’re going to make America proud. Wherever this takes us, we’ll have to wait and see.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of match day.

When is the game and how can you watch it in the US?

Kickoff is scheduled for 2:00 PM ET on Friday, November 25. US viewers can watch the match live on FOX or through various streaming options.

How have the two teams fared in the tournament so far?

Both teams will enter the Al Bait Stadium unbeaten on Friday. England kicked off their 2022 World Cup on Monday with an emphatic 6-2 win over Iran. Although the USA took an early lead against Wales later that day with a stunning goal from striker Timothy Weah, the match ended in a draw after a penalty scored by Wales captain Gareth Bale.

Forward Timothy Weah hugs teammates after scoring the USA's first goal of the Qatar 2022 World Cup in the match against Wales at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, November 21, 2022. (Jewel Samad—AFP/Getty Images)

Forward Timothy Weah hugs teammates after scoring the USA’s first goal of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar against Wales at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, November 21, 2022.

Jewel Samad—AFP/Getty Images

Read more: Team USA tied 1-1 with Wales in their World Cup opener

As for the points that will ultimately determine which two teams in Group B advance to the knockout stages, England top the table with three points, followed by the USA and Wales with one point each and Iran with zero. Assuming a win against Iran next week, which looms as the easiest (though by no means guaranteed) game for the US at this stage of the tournament, a win or draw against England on Friday would put the US in a strong position to advance to the round of 16. If Team USA advances, it will face one of the top two teams in Group A, which includes the Netherlands, Ecuador, Senegal and host nation Qatar. But a loss to England could put those hopes in tatters.

How much does history inform this match?

The US and England have developed a healthy — and at times even meme worthy— football rivalry over the years. Although American players self-identify as “outsiders” at this World Cup, American fans know the team has the capacity to deliver upsets against giants in the sport after winning Brazil in the 1998 CONCACAF Gold Cup, Portugal at the 2002 World Cupand, of course, England in the 1950s.

When the U.S. defeated the Three Lions in Brazil 72 years ago, the news barely made it back home, according to Jeffrey Douglas, author of the 1996 book. The game of their lives, which describes the history of the match and its participants. When the players returned home after being kicked out of the competition, they found that “nobody knew anything about it,” Douglas told TIME, noting that as a sport, soccer “just wasn’t on the radar” the way it was. which more popular games like baseball and football were. It was only decades later, when football’s importance grew and when the story of the 1950 World Cup began to be remembered in popular culture, including 2005 movie based on Douglass’s book—that Americans have become more aware of their country’s historical disorder.

Read more: Your Complete Guide to the USA Men’s National Team at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar

As much as Team USA feels they have something to prove, England will also look at this game as a win-win in their quest for World Cup glory. After all, the Three Lions have suffered some heartbreaking defeats in their recent international competitions, including their loss to Italy on penalties in last year’s European Championship final and their semi-final defeat by Croatia at the 2018 World Cup .The pressure to finally ensure that football is coming homeand so are the England fans a popular rallying crya nod to the country’s invention of the sport Americans call footballwill weigh heavily on Southgate’s team.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of both teams?

The England team under manager Southgate was often criticized for being too defensive and too cautious, a notion that Monday’s 6-2 result against Iran might help dispel. Team USA is believed to have the opposite problem, lack of solid protection on his back line.

But the England team is widely regarded as the favorite to win this match and for good reason. England have seen a revival under Southgate, boosted in part by a young but internationally tested squad including a number of rising stars such as the 21-year-old striker Bukayo Saka.

England's Bukayo Saka cheered after the final whistle after scoring two of the Three Lions' six goals against Iran.  Coach Gareth Southgate walks in the background at the Khalifa International Stadium in Qatar, November 21, 2022. (Robert Michael—picture-alliance/dpa/AP)

England’s Bukayo Saka cheered after the final whistle after scoring two of the Three Lions’ six goals against Iran. Coach Gareth Southgate walks in the background at the Khalifa International Stadium in Qatar, November 21, 2022.

Robert Michael—picture-alliance/dpa/AP

Even with their younger players, England offer one of the most internationally experienced squads in this tournament — its captain Harry Kane was the top scorer at the 2018 World Cup. The USA, on the other hand, claim one of the youngest teams, second only to Ghana, with an average age of 25. While the youth of the American players can be seen as an advantage in terms of the energy and intensity they can bring to matches, it can also be seen as a disadvantage: the absence of Team USA from the 2018 competition means that the team has almost no World Cup experience except for 2014 veteran DeAndre Yedlin.

Read more: Tyler Adams is the World Cup captain that Team USA desperately needs

Regardless, the players on the current USA team have been drafted by some of the world’s top professional teams, including those competing in Europe’s toughest leagues. “We’ve never had a team that had so many players who played at such a high level on their club teams,” said Dörn Buchholz, executive director of the Texas National Football Hall of Fame, “and not just sitting on the bench. , but starting.

How important is this World Cup for the USA?

While Team USA is busy with the upcoming World Cup, it will undoubtedly also be thinking about 2026, when the USA is scheduled to host the competition along with neighbors Mexico and Canada.

“As long as they can stay healthy and continue to play at high levels, you’ll see them in 2026 with a World Cup in their hands,” says Buchholz. “And I think that’s going to be incredibly profitable for us in 2026.”

An older, more experienced USA team, bolstered by home field advantage, could emerge as a serious contender four years from now – one with the potential to go up against not just England, but any national team. At least that’s what fans like Buchholz hope. After all, miracles can happen.

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Write to Yasmin Serhan c [email protected].

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