You have to forgive the United States men’s national team for not feeling too sad about the 2-0 loss to Costa Rica in the final match of the World Cup qualifiers. Despite failing to pick up any points from the game, the USMNT still secured an automatic spot at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
The U.S. team finished third on the CONCACAF standings and will be returning to the World Cup after failing to qualify in 2018. They will be joined by the first-placed Canada, which is set to make its first appearance in the tournament since 1986, and Mexico.
USMNT had convincing qualifiers, picking up only three losses in 14 games. Their run included an undefeated record at home highlighted by the 2-0 win over Mexico. Now, manager Gregg Berhalter and his players are looking to get in the best shape for the big stage, where the aim is to come out of the group stage.
“The starting point is getting out of the group, and once you do that, it’s tournament time, you know, it’s knockout, single-elimination so anything can happen,” Berhalter told reporters on Thursday.
Since the group stage was introduced in World Cup tournaments, USMNT has reached the knockout stage on three occasions. Its best result is a Quarter-finals appearance at the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea.