WORLD CUP: Team profile – USA (group e)

Consistent play, comprehensive preparations and a slew of talented players — many of whom helped see them through to the quarter-finals at Korea/Japan 2002 — ensured the United States can look forward to a fifth consecutive appearance on the world’s biggest stage at Germany 2006. Bruce Arena’s men reached the 2006 FIFA World Cup with three matches still to play in the final round of North, Central American and Caribbean qualifying.

With only one loss in their opening six final round matches, the US needed a win at home against Mexico on September 3, 2005 to book their place. Goals from Steve Ralston and Beasley saw the Americans defeat their neighbours to the south and kick off wild celebrations. In their three remaining qualifiers Arena — who has been coach since 1998 — took the opportunity to experiment with an eye on the finals in Germany. US won the final qualifier 2-0 over Panama in which Taylor Twellman and Kyle Martino scored their first international goals.

After reaching the semi-finals of the inaugural FIFA World Cup in 1930, the USA’s fortunes were decidedly less impressive for a long time. After reaching the second round as hosts in 1994, they finished last in their group at France 1998. In 2002, led by Donovan, Reyna and McBride, the Americans beat Portugal in their opener before knocking out Mexico in the second round to reach the quarter-finals where they lost to Germany.