Can the Young Americans Beat England in the World Cup? It’s Happened Before
The United States is sending its second-youngest World Cup team ever to Qatar. With only one World Cup veteran on the roster, this team is loaded with young, internationally known rising stars who are full of potential.
A decade or more from now, any number of them could find their way into the National Soccer Hall of Fame. But what’s the likelihood that every player on the squad and the coach all will be inducted?
Well, it has happened once before.
Every player from the USMNT’s 1950 World Cup team, which earned a landmark 1-0 victory over England, is in the Hall of Fame. Their coach, William Jeffrey, was inducted in 1951.
That victory over England was the greatest upset in the nation’s sports history until the 1980 Olympic hockey team made us all believe in miracles. The English, playing in their World Cup debut, were heavy favorites to defeat an American side of mostly part-time players.
Goalkeeper Frank Borghi was a World War II veteran and a professional baseball player who took up soccer to stay in shape during the offseason. Haitian-born Joe Gaetjens, who scored the only goal of the match, was working as a dishwasher in Harlem when he joined the team. Walter Bahr, who often served as captain for the USMNT, worked as a high school teacher during his playing career.
It sounds like a Hollywood script, and eventually it was one: The 2005 film The Game of Their Lives was based on author Geoffrey Douglas’ book about the match. (The film later was released on DVD as The Miracle Match.)
The entire team is in the Hall of Fame. In 1974, Nicholas DiOrio was the first of the players to be inducted. The bulk of the team was inducted in 1976, and Robert Craddock was inducted in 1997.
Bahr, who was the last surviving member of the team, died in 2018 at age 91.
Casual fans may be surprised to know that when the U.S. plays England on Nov. 25, it will be only the third meeting between the two nations in World Cup play. The other previous match, played in 2010, was a 1-1 draw with goals by Steven Gerrard and Clint Dempsey, who was inducted to the Hall of Fame this year.
Other Hall of Famers who featured in the 2010 match are Carlos Bocanegra (2020), Steve Cherundolo (2021) and their coach, Bob Bradley (2014). Four members of that team — DaMarcus Beasley, Landon Donovan, Maurice Edu and Oguchi Onyewu — are finalists for election in the Class of 2023.