Immediately after watching the US Under-20 national team claw back late for a 3-2 triumph over favored World Cup Round of 16 foes France on Tuesday, we simply couldn't help but wonder where the win stacked up among the greatest in program history.
So, as is the tendency, we're here with a ranking of the biggest U-20 World Cup victories scored by our red, white and blue boys during their 16 tournament trips.
No. 5: Paraguay (2003)
When it comes to ranking the US U-20 team's biggest World Cup wins, there is a clear top four and then there's a handful of other fairly level results way behind them. For the purposes of rounding out a top five, we'll go with the tournament-opening 3-1 victory over Paraguay in the United Arab Emirates.
It was one of those out-of-the-blocks, near-must win games, what with the spectre of a Matchday 2 tilt against Germany looming. The Albirroja grabbed the early lead on a free kick by Julio dos Santos, one of 10 players on that roster (which also included future MLS Cup winner Nelson Valdez) who went on to play for Paraguay's senior national team.
The young Americans finally responded when Eddie Johnson kissed home a Santino Quaranta cross on 53 minutes. A quarter-hour passed before Mike Magee put the US ahead to stay by cleaning up a Johnson rebound. Skipper Bobby Convey capped the win with nine minutes left, running free up the gut to fire home from the top of the box. The team were off and running to their first quarterfinal in 10 years.
No. 4: Brazil (2007)
The United States had one of their most balanced squads in Canada's edition of the U-20 World Cup, and that group is responsible for two victories on this list. The first one of those was a group stage-capping defeat of Brazil, a nation the US are not accustomed to beating in soccer.
That Brazil team featured future stars such as Marcelo, Luizao, Renato Augusto, Alexandre Pato, Willian and David Luiz (who was actually benched prior to the US match). Nevertheless, it was the US that opened the scoring in the 25th minute. High pressure from Freddy Adu forced a turnover that Jozy Altidore scooped up to coolly slot home from 20 yards.
Brazil eventually leveled a few minutes past the hour mark; Leandro Lima was credited with the goal, even though it actually went in off of Ofori Sarkodie. It mattered not in the end, as a spell of magic from Adu would decide the contest nine minutes from time. He bamboozled a pair of Brazil defenders to escape the corner and center for Altidore, who clinched first place in the group with a sound finish.
No. 3: Argentina (2005)
Lionel Messi and the Albiceleste bested the murderers' row of Germany, Colombia, Spain and Brazil before topping Nigeria to take the title. The one team they could not defeat on the way to the crown was the US, their opening group-stage opponent.
Sigi Schmid, who was enjoying his second World Cup in charge of the US U-20s, saw the job of crafting an upset made easier when his Argentina counterpart Francisco Ferarro inexplicably left Messi out of the starting lineup. The underdogs carried their fair share of play in the opening frame, and left it with a lead after Chad Barrett nodded home a deflected Marvell Wynne cross in the 39th minute.
Messi did appear at halftime to send US stress levels through the roof. Time and again, he wiggled, waddled and waltzed through a forest of US defenders with the ball on a string to arrange threatening attacks. Thoroughly unimpressed, Quentin Westberg and a backline dealing with the first-half injury loss of linchpin Jonathan Spector managed to make the 1-0 scoreline hold up.
No. 2: France (2019)
The reasons for this farm-fresh victory hitting the list so high are many and varied. Right off the top, Les Bleues were the clear tournament favorites, a status that was only accentuated when distant second choice Portugal didn't make it out of the group stage.
Of course, there's also the late fightback. I mean, who doesn't love a stirring rally? France looked much more likely to grab a third than concede until Uly Llanez and eventual hero Justin Rennicks entered the fray in the 63rd minute. Moments later, Sebastian Soto had his second and we had a tie game. At least until Rennicks pounced on a rebound with seven minutes to play.
Last but not least, the knockout win pushed the US men's program closer to its first major championship at any age level. The upset has the U-20s in their record third straight World Cup quarterfinal, and one that is missing most of the pre-tourney darlings. Who knows? Maybe this triumph will be pushed down to the three slot before all is said and done over in Poland.
No. 1: Uruguay (2007)
Like the win over France, this 2-1 extra-time dazzler was a tense Round of 16 affair. Unlike Tuesday's big upset, this contest pitted two sides seen as capable of taking the title against each other. Uruguay came to the party with a scary squads led by Edinson Cavani, Luis Suarez and Martin Caceres.
The teams went toe-to-toe and end-to-end, trading pressure for 73 minutes until US goalkeeper Brian Perk spilled a tasty Cavani rebound for Suarez to devour. The score was returned to level four minutes from the end of regulation when Danny Szetela's low goalmouth cross was turned in by a scrambling Uruguay defender.
Uruguay hit the post in the 90th minute and forced a fine Perk save early in extras, but this was not to be their day. In the second minute of the second overtime session, US defender Julian Valentin swatted a weak corner kick punch back toward goal and Michael Bradley — playing his first game at BMO Field, mind you — redirected the ball top shelf.