USA finishes third in World Cup bow in Uruguay (1930)
Twelve countries flocked to Uruguay for the first edition of the tournament. In a rather substantial surprise, the American side won its first two matches against Belgium and Paraguay to advance to the last four. A first-half injury to Raphael Tracey and the subsequent reduction to 10 men yielded a 6-1 defeat to Argentina in the semifinals, but the Americans still finished third. It remains the USA's best finish at a World Cup.
Second trip ends quickly in Italy (1934)
The tournament shifted to a 16-team, single-elimination format for the second edition in Italy. After finishing third four years earlier, the Americans somehow drew the host nation in their first match. Angelo Schiavio scored a hat trick to send the United States home with a 7-1 defeat.
Miracle of Belo Horizonte (1950)
All of the memories of this trip to Brazil hinge on the fateful victory over England in the second match of group play. Joe Gaetjens struck seven minutes before halftime to propel the Americans to a shocking 1-0 victory. The magic didn’t last, though: Chile dashed any hopes of a knockout stage place with a 5-2 win in the final group match.
Back in the mix after a 40-year absence (1990)
Paul Caliguiri issued the "Shot Heard Round the World" to defeat Trinidad and Tobago in the decisive qualifier a year earlier to end the Americans’ 40-year drought. Bob Gansler cobbled together an inexperienced and youthful squad for the trip to Italy for this three-and-out mission.
AFP/Getty ImagesBOB PEARSON
Second round success on home soil (1994)
The excursion to Italy four years prior provided the framework four years later in the United States. Veteran coach Bora Milutinovic molded a cohesive and defiant side to navigate through group play with a 1-1-1 record and set up a fateful Round of 16 clash with eventual champions Brazil. Bebeto eventually scored the winner after 72 minutes to end the Americans’ creditable run, but the impact of this World Cup -- and its influence on the start of MLS -- lingers to this day.
Getty ImagesChris Cole
Disaster in France (1998)
Internal strife hindered any realistic chances of building on the momentum gained four years earlier at home. This tattered group lost three matches out of three and finished dead last after a miserable trip to France, including a memorable 2-1 defeat to Iran.
Getty ImagesBen Radford
Surprise run to the quarterfinals (2002)
USA manager Bruce Arena ushered in a new era after the disaster in France and watched his players deliver in style. A stunning victory over Portugal eventually allowed the United States to escape the group stage despite a final day defeat to Poland. Brian McBride and Landon Donovan then dispatched Mexico in the Round of 16 to pave the way for a quarterfinal exit to Germany.
Action Images / ReutersShaun Best
Group of Death yields early exit (2006)
Arena and many of his players stuck around in a bid to replicate the success of four years earlier, but a difficult draw eventually condemned the Americans to an early exit. Ghana -- a country poised to haunt the Americans again four years later -- delivered the killer blow with a 2-1 victory in the final group game after a 3-0 defeat to the Czech Republic and a 1-1 tie with Italy.
Getty ImagesJonathan Ferrey
Ghana breaks USA hearts once again (2010)
The trek to South Africa provided plenty of drama. A draw with England bolstered the efforts to return to the knockout stage, but the United States still needed a last-gasp Landon Donovan winner over Algeria to win Group C. The Round of 16 clash with Ghana ended all square at 1-1 after 90 minutes, but Asamoah Gyan scored in the 93rd minute to send the Americans home.
Getty ImagesKevork Djansezian
Howard's heroics not enough in Brazil (2014)
The U.S. were dealt a tough blow when they were put in a group with Germany, Portugal and Ghana. Most thought Jurgen Klinsmann's team wouldn't be able to advance against such tough opposition, but a last-gasp goal by John Brooks in their opener fired them to a win over Ghana and hope was strong once more. They were minutes away from a win over Portugal, which would have seen them advance, but a late equalizer tore their hearts out. A loss to Germany could have seen them out of the tournament, but a four points proved to be enough to advance, anyway. Their round of 16 match against Belgium turned into The Tim Howard Show, but his heroics still weren't enough to save the Americans as they fell in extra time.