U.S. defeated 2-1 by Jamaica -- where it ranks among worst USMNT losses
The unthinkable happened on Wednesday night in Atlanta: The USMNT lost at the Gold Cup, before the final and to someone other than Mexico. With every expectation that they'd beat Jamaica on home soil, the Americans fell behind thanks to poor set-piece defending and couldn't claw their way back. Their best wasn't good enough.
Where does the loss rank among the U.S.' worst of all time? Here's our top 10 (1 = worst loss of all time).
1. 1998 World Cup group stage: Iran 2, USA 1
In a game packed with political tension, the loss to Iran in France is mostly remembered as a simple soccer failure. Off the back of its knockout-round appearance at the ultrasuccessful 1994 World Cup, the U.S. believed it was ready to take the next step. Instead, it followed up a not-unexpected loss to Germany in the first game of the group stage with this defeat in Lyon. The poor relations between the two nations played a role in the buildup, but once the game started, the USMNT couldn't impose itself on its opponent.
2. 2015 Gold Cup semifinal: Jamaica 2, USA 1
Wednesday's match was the first time the U.S. had lost to a Caribbean nation on American soil since 1969. It was first time the U.S. was eliminated from the Gold Cup by a CONCACAF team other than Mexico. And it was the first time the U.S. failed to advance to the final since 2003. It remains to be seen whether the loss means some sort of reckoning is coming for coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
3. 2011 Gold Cup final: Mexico 4, USA 2
Otherwise known as the Bob Bradley farewell game. In his final match as USMNT coach (he would be fired a month later), Bradley attempted to mold his team into something more expansive and attack-minded. After going up 2-0 through goals by Michael Bradley and Landon Donovan, the U.S. succumbed to Mexico's superior offensive talent at the Rose Bowl. The pro-Mexico crowd delighted in the victory for El Tri, a win that embarrassed the Americans and forced U.S. Soccer into a coaching change.
4. 2006 World Cup group stage: Czech Republic 3, USA 0
So much of the disappointment that came from the U.S.' performance at the 2006 World Cup can be laid at the feet of an inflated FIFA ranking (the Americans were No. 4 in the world two months before the tournament) that unfairly raised expectations. Instead of going deep in the draw, the U.S. fell flat against the Czechs in its group-stage opener, a loss that set the tone for the rest of its tournament.
5. 2010 World Cup round of 16: Ghana 2, USA 1
With a chance to repeat its best showing at a World Cup on the line, the U.S. fell in extra time to Ghana on a goal by Asamoah Gyan. Ricardo Clark was stripped of the ball in midfield just five minutes into the game, allowing Kevin-Prince Boateng to rocket a shot by a helpless Tim Howard and put the Ghanaians up 1-0. A second-half penalty converted by Landon Donovan got the Americans back on level terms, but Gyan sealed their fate.
6. 2006 World Cup group stage: Ghana 2, USA 1
The first time Ghana broke American hearts came in the group stage of the 2006 World Cup. Despite failing to score on its own through two games (a shutout loss to the Czechs and a 1-1 draw with Italy that featured an Italian own goal), the U.S. held its fate in its hands against Ghana in the final Group E match. Win it, and the U.S. would advance to the knockout rounds for the second consecutive tournament. Instead, Claudio Reyna suffered insult and injury on a turnover that led to an early Ghana goal, and Oguchi Onyewu was whistled for a dubious penalty that led to the winning goal on a penalty kick.
7. 2011 Gold Cup group stage: Panama 2, USA 1
The 2-1 defeat to Panama in Tampa is notable for being the Americans' first group-stage loss in a Gold Cup match, their first loss to Panama and a game that first set the stage for Bob Bradley's ousting as coach. Two first-half goals for Panama -- one of them officially an own goal by Clarence Goodson, and the other a penalty earned when Blas Perez used his guile to victimize Tim Ream -- were all the Central American side needed to see the game out.
8. 2009 Confederations Cup final: Brazil 3, USA 2
With a chance to win its first FIFA senior trophy, the U.S. took a 2-0 lead on mighty Brazil before seeing its lead melt under a second-half barrage by the Selecao. What had been a very strange, up-and-down tournament for the U.S. -- it beat Spain 2-0 in the semifinals -- looked like it would deliver one of the defining moments in American soccer history. Instead, Brazil prevailed 3-2, and Clint Dempsey was brought to tears during the postgame ceremonies.
9. 2009 Gold Cup final: Mexico 5, USA 0
2009 was an off year for the Gold Cup, but this loss still stands out for the sheer magnitude of the score line. Bob Bradley took a team made up of the very green and very fringe to a tournament that didn't determine the Confederations Cup representative for CONCACAF, and therefore mattered less. Mexico did the same, but when the two giants of the region met each other in front of a sellout crowd at Giants Stadium, the Mexicans displayed all of the attacking talent. Five different Mexico players scored as Giants Stadium rocked with the noise made by 79,000 green-clad El Tri fans.
10. 2002 World Cup quarterfinals: Germany 1, USA 0
The U.S.' loss to Germany in South Korea sneaks into this list but could very well rank much higher depending on the exact definition of "worst." Unlike some others, this loss was due not to a poor American performance but rather a cruel twist of fate. After surprising the world by upsetting Portugal in the group stage and then downing bitter rival Mexico in the round of 16, the U.S. played Germany toe-to-toe over the course of 90 minutes, but it found itself behind thanks to a Michael Ballack goal just before halftime.
The moment that will remain burned in American minds, however, came when Torsten Frings handled the ball on the line in the 49th minute, robbing the U.S. of the equalizer. No whistle came from referee Hugh Dallas, denying the Americans the justice they seemed to deserve.
Jason Davis covers Major League Soccer and the United States national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @davisjsn.