That Wonderful Summer

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On July 4, 1988, FIFA awarded the 1994 World Cup to the United States. At the time, there was no top-flight professional league in the U.S., and it had been 38 years since the country had participated in a World Cup. As a condition for awarding the tournament, FIFA required the United States to create a new professional league.

A year and a half later, Paul Caligiuri scored one of the most important goals in American soccer history. His strike against Trinidad and Tobago qualified the U.S. for the 1990 World Cup — the team’s first since 1950. Although under manager Bob Gansler the Americans lost all three World Cup games in Italy that summer, falling to Czechoslovakia, the Italians, and Austria, the modern era of American soccer had begun.

Two months after the 1990 World Cup, United States Soccer Federation president Werner Fricker was up for reelection. Although Fricker had helped the U.S. secure the 1994 World Cup, he was ousted and replaced by Alan Rothenberg, a former investor in the North American Soccer League and overseer of the wildly successful 1984 Olympic soccer tournament in Los Angeles.

One of Rothenberg’s first moves as president was to name Bora Milutinovic head coach of the national team. The Serbian coached Mexico to the 1986 World Cup quarterfinal and, even more impressively, led Costa Rica to the 1990 World Cup round of 16 after being hired as head coach just 90 days before the tournament.


Wc94team_mediumThe final 22-man USMNT roster for the ’94 World Cup. (Getty Images)



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