U.S. Men's National Team

A look back at USA's 2002 World Cup upset of Portugal

2002WorldCupUSA (ISIPhotos.com)

Photo by ISIPhotos.com

It was one of the stunning, exciting and enjoyable moments in American soccer history, the U.S. Men's national team's stunning 3-2 World Cup upset victory against Portugal on June 5th, 2002. That day in Suwon, South Korea marked a turnaround for the sport in the USA, and helped spark the best World Cup run by the USMNT in half a century.

Today marks the 10-year anniversary of that historic day, and the anniversary will have plenty of American fans thinking back to where they were when the USA shocked the world.

I was lucky enough to be in Suwon that day, as a young newspaper reporter covering my first World Cup. The lasting memory I have of that day, along with the obvious events of the match, was the way Portuguese media acted before the match. To say some Portuguese reporters were expecting an easy Portugal victory is an understatement. There was definitely a "you're lucky to even be here" attitude toward the U.S. team. That made it all the more entertaining to watch those same Portuguese media members get flustered as John O'Brien scored, then Landon Donovan forced an own goal, then Brian McBride headed home a goal to make it a stunning 3-0 lead for the USA.

Portugal fought back to make it 3-2, with the help of Jeff Agoos' magical own goal, but that only served to provide some more excitement to the final 20 minutes of the match, which had to be the most nerve-wracking experience many USA fans had ever experienced.

There were other unforgettable moments at the 2002 World Cup for the USA, from Clint Mathis' goal against South Korea, to the USA's victory over Mexico, but none of those moments can match the sheer shock and excitement of the USA knocking off a powerhouse Portugal side.

Ten years have gone by since that memorable day, but for the fans who watched that match, and the people lucky enough to be in the stadium that day, the memories won't soon fade away.

Here are the match highlights from that historic match:

If you never got a chance to watch the match, or would like to watch the match in its entirety, you can watch it here.

What are your memories of the USA's victory over Portugal? Where were you when the U.S. Men's National Team shocked the world?

Share your memories below. 

  • Kevin_Amold

    Speaking to him as a player over the course of his career. Watching the 2002 cup highlights indicate to me that he was not up for it.


  • JMartin

    I was in the stadium that day and it will remain the single most incredible match I’ll ever see live.

    The stadium was about 90% supporting Portugal and every time the US scored I stood up and screamed my lungs out. After the third goal almost everybody around me was hating me. Then the Portugal goals started coming and I got the same treatment back by about 30 people around me.

    At the end of the game I just stayed in my seat, stunned for about 15 minutes, and soaked it all in. I kept taking photos of the scoreboard.


  • Felipe

    crazy as it sounds, the early morning viewing was some of the best parts of that world cup – four soccerheads in my town met at one guy’s vacant lake house because a) he got cable and b) we would not wake sleeping wives, kids, dogs etc. Great memories hootin and hollerin and THEN going to work – BIZARRE but BRILLIANT!!!


  • Lost in Space

    Seeing the highlights and reading all the comments made me pull out my OLD tape of the match and rewatch it from beginning to end. Still such a thrill. I’m going to watch the US Vs. Mex match next…I’ll probably throw something at the TV again when I get the Rafa red-card (Wanted to see someone smack him after the game).


  • Andy

    I was there too, also when we beat mexico and ran around outside afterwards.. it was awesome and I can’t believe its been 10 years


  • RJ

    If only he’d finished that last gasp header against Germany. Mathis made a nice move just to get the cross off. I jumped out of my chair thinking it was in the net, but alas, it wasn’t.


  • Dennis

    I guess we should all bow to your great ability to foretell the future and to your superior knowledge. USSOCCER should hav ehired you and we would have won WC 2010.


  • Dennis

    I recall Brian McBride being fouled repeatedly and really only out of frustration by the Portugese in the 2nd half. McBride always got up smiling and shaking his head knowing that every foul called wasted time the Portugese needed if they wanted to score enough to come back.


  • RJ

    I became a casual soccer fan when the U.S. made their run in WC ’94 here in the States, but their run in WC ’02 was what made me a die-hard. I wasn’t used to waking up so early, so I slept right through the first half of the Portugal game. When I turned on the TV that morning, I saw the U.S. was leading 3-1, and my jaw dropped. Then I saw Agoos put one in his own net, and I was like, “Did that really just happen?” Thankfully they held on for the historic upset. I made sure to wake up in time to watch the rest of our games from start to finish. I was so heartbroken when we lost to Germany.


  • Dennis

    In sports, you are only as good as your last game. The tie vs Canada is hardly a ringing endorsement of the Klinsmann era.


  • Benny

    I was in Cadiz, Spain. I jumped like crazy when O’Brien scored. I also remember that the U.S. had to beat Barbados in the last game of the Semi-finals in order to qualify for the final round. It was the 60th minute and the game was scoreless. Finally in the 64th minute, Mathis scored and the U.S. advanced to the final round of qualifications. The U.S., on the last day, defeated Jamaica 2-1 on a Moore Penalty in the 81 minute and the U.S. advance to the WC 2002, a game they had to win. In the World Cup they did great. Great times 2002 WC.


  • eman

    my 10 year-old self was crying when we lost against Germany.

    strongest passion i’ve ever felt for sport in my whole life, that game

    that Frings hand ball destroyed me


  • CplDaniel

    Every June, not a SINGLE DAY goes by that I don’t think about that…My God, I wonder if I will still be thinking, ranting, about that hand ball on the line and how far we could have gone, in 2070 when I am 90-years old??


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