The USA celebrates after defeating host Trinidad & Tobago on November 19, 2014, to qualify for its first World Cup since 1950. (Photo: Michael Lewis)
NEW YORK – Twenty-five years ago on Wednesday, the United States made history, qualifying for its first FIFA World Cup in 40 years.
The Americans defeated Trinidad & Tobago, 1-0, before a packed house at Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain on November 19, 1989.
The result catapulted the USA into Italia '90 and forced the Soca Warriors to wait 16 years before they secured their first berth at Germany 2006.
Midfielder Paul Caligiuri scored the legendary match’s lone goal with a looping, 28-yard shot past goalkeeper Michael Maurice in the 31st minute. Caligiuri's second international goal snapped the side’s scoring drought at 239 minutes.
"I saw I had space ahead of me, but then two defenders converged on me,” he said. “I faked with my right foot and kicked it with my left foot over his head to the far post.
"Maybe it caught the goalkeeper by surprise. Maybe it was luck."
The USA team, which included goalkeeper Tony Meola, plus midfielders John Harkes and Tab Ramos, among others, held on in front of a partisan crowd that was clad completely in red.
"This game will have a tremendous impact on the sport in the United States," Caligiuri said that day in a locker room that was part New Year's Eve and part Mardi Gras. "It was the single-most important game we ever won.
"It proves to the rest of the world we can play and we can qualify. We all knew what was on the line for the future of soccer in the United States."
Caligiuri turned out to be correct.
Since then, U.S. soccer has grown in stature, domestically and internationally.
On the domestic front, the Americans added Major League Soccer, of which most teams have soccer-specific stadiums, and a minor-league system that allows players to develop.
Internationally, the USA men have qualified for seven successive World Cups and has become a CONCACAF power, winning five Gold Cups, most recently in 2013. The American women have dominated international soccer, winning seven CONCACAF championships, two Women's World Cups, and four Olympic gold medals.
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