Inexperience shows but USA’s golden generation set for World Cup charge on home soil in 2026

The USA should be ready for a strong World Cup showing in 2026  (AFP via Getty Images)
The USA should be ready for a strong World Cup showing in 2026 (AFP via Getty Images)

President Joe Biden cheered on the USA ahead of kick-off, releasing a video saying ‘it’s called soccer, go USA’, but they ended up being taught a lesson in finishing by the Netherlands.

The Dutch ran out 3-1 winners to restore the name ‘football’ to the sport, leaving USA winless in 12 games against European nations and having not made it beyond last-16 at a World Cup since 2002.

Wantaway Barcelona forward Memphis Depay opened the scoring at the Khalifa International Stadium, after a move that consisted of over 20 passes was finished as he turned in Denzel Dumfries’s cutback.

His goal followed Christian Pulisic missing a huge chance for the USA after going one on one with Andries Noppert, only to hit it straight at him.

Dumfries again punished the USA, who didn’t learn their lessons for tracking his runs, by producing a similar cutback to allow left wing-back Daley Blind to turn it home.

The USA had a full team huddle just before the second half started, and almost found a way back into the match but Tim Ream was unable to score from point-blank range after a Weston McKennie knockdown.

McKennie and Pulisic had further efforts but it took substitute Haji Wright to halve the deficit, a bizarre finish that somehow beat goalkeeper Noppert.

Daley Blind would return the favour and cross for Dumfries who scored at the far post to kill the match late on, sending his side through to face either Argentina or Australia in the next round.

However, Gregg Berhalter’s side can be heartened by their campaign after drawing with England and Wales before beating Iran in Group B.

They were the youngest team in the last-16 and the second youngest at the tournament as a whole.

Many of their young stars will be at their peak when they bring the tournament back to North America when they co-host it with Mexico and Canada in four years’ time.

Goalkeeper Turner said afterwards: “It is always important for us to do well because we know it gets the most press and coverage on TV in the United States. Good performances in the World Cup grows the game. It is what got me into the game, it is what got most of these guys to feel real passion about the sport.

“We understand the opportunity that presents itself every time there’s a World Cup. Hopefully there’s some young boys back home that feel really passionate about the game now. We know how much it means to us and the opportunities that it provides people. We hope we continue to grow the sport in our country as there’s a lot of potential out there.”

The president’s message shows just how the game is taking off in the States as Premier League audiences grow and the MLS improves in quality.

They will be better placed to surpass their 2002 team as Pulisic, Yunus Musah, McKennie, Brendan Aaronson and Gio Reyna will be closer to their peaks.

There’s more to come from the USA but the time is now for Louis van Gaal’s Netherlands - who are really contenders for glory.