U.S. fails to qualify for World Cup for first time since 1986

Crushing defeat for U.S. Men's National Soccer teamFor the first time in more than 30 years, the United States will not be participating in the World Cup. The U.S. Men’s National Team lost 2-1 to Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday, sealing their fate following a disappointing hexagonal final round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The result sent shockwaves through the USMNT that will likely be felt for years to come.

The U.S. entered Tuesday in a concerning but favourable position, two points clear of both Panama and Honduras in the third and final guaranteed spot for CONCACAF members. Even a loss to Trinidad, who was already eliminated from contention with one win and eight losses, would not necessarily spell doom for the U.S., which could still claim fourth spot and a qualifying playoff with Australia as long as either Panama or Honduras failed to win their respective final matchups.

Trinidad jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first half thanks to an own-goal by U.S. defender Omar Gonzalez and a beautiful strike from distance by Alvin Jones. The U.S. looked primed to respond in the second half when wunderkind Christian Pulisic scored early to cut into Trinidad’s lead, but that was all they could muster despite carrying the majority of possession. Their fate was sealed when Honduras beat Mexico and Panama defeated Costa Rica, leaping over the U.S. to grab the final two meaningful spots in CONCACAF qualifying.

Tuesday’s loss is already being called “the most embarrassing defeat in U.S. soccer history” by pundits trying to make sense of the flummoxing result. Along with the disappointment and embarrassment of missing out on the World Cup, failing to qualify will have a negative impact on the businesses involved with the team and tournament, like Nike, who makes the USMNT official jerseys, or Fox, which bought the World Cup broadcast rights in the U.S. for $200 million two weeks ago. It’s a disaster on all levels that could lead to the ouster of U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati and will almost certainly spell the end of Bruce Arena’s second tenure as USMNT coach.