The United States Men’s National Team advanced to the Round of 16 of the 2022 World Cup on Tuesday afternoon. Entering Tuesday, the United States needed to win against Iran to finish first or second in Group B, and they did so, winning 1-0.

On Saturday, the United States will play the Netherlands with an opportunity to advance to the quarterfinals. It would be the first time the U.S. has reached the quarterfinals since 2002.

US Finishes Second in Group B

Last Monday, the United States seemed likely to beat Wales 1-0 at halftime, it would have been a crucial win for the U.S., who has advanced to the Round of 16 every time they have won their opening game at a World Cup.

However, a Walker Zimmerman foul just after the 80th minute gave Wales a penalty kick, and Gareth Bale scored to make the score 1-1. The United States was unable to retake the lead before the end of the game, and both teams began the World Cup with a draw.

As a result, the United States entered the rest of the group stage with a much more complicated path to advancing to the Round of 16. They needed to win against Iran in the final game of the group stage, while the team’s game against England was unlikely to affect the group but would have an important impact on confidence and how the entire sport is viewed in the country.

The United States played excellently against England. For most of the game, the U.S. was the better team, and when the game finished as a 0-0 draw it felt like a disappointment despite England entering the match as the consensus favorite.

That match built further confidence in a young United States team. On Tuesday, the U.S. starting eleven was the youngest of the World Cup so far.

In the most important match of most of those players’ careers so far, the United States played extremely well, especially in the first half. The U.S. prevented Iran from having any shots in the first half, and only one shot on goal in the entire game.

Throughout the first half, the United States created opportunities to score. Both Yunus Musah and Timothy Weah had good opportunities before their shots went over the crossbar, and Weah and Christian Pulisic had headers saved during the half.

In the 38th minute, Sergino Dest headed the ball toward Pulisic in front of the net. Pulisic reached the ball first, scoring to give the United States the lead. Unfortunately, Pulisic was injured on the play, and while he re-entered the game for the rest of the half, he was substituted at halftime and eventually went to the hospital. In the second half, the United States defended well, and a key clearance at the end of the game from Zimmerman ensured the U.S. won.

It isn’t clear whether or not Pulisic will be able to play against the Netherlands, but his goal advanced the United States to the Round of 16. The U.S. played well against all three of their group-stage opponents, and their game against the Netherlands will be one of the most exciting games of this weekend.

The Netherlands Will Play the United States in the Round of 16

The U.S. opponent on Saturday, the Netherlands, also performed well during the group stage, winning Group A. Cody Gakpo, who has been one of the best players in Europe this season during the start of the year with PSV Eindhoven, has been arguably the best player in the World Cup so far and has already scored three goals.

During the group stage, the Netherlands won two of their three games, drawing against Ecuador, and won Group A. Similarly to the U.S., they allowed only one goal during the group stage.

Both teams did not qualify for the 2018 World Cup, but on Saturday afternoon they will play each other for an opportunity to reach the quarterfinals. It would be another opportunity for the United States to show how much the team has improved. The Netherlands didn’t qualify for the 2018 World Cup, but finished in third place in 2014 and reached the final in 2010.

Ahead of the 2026 World Cup, which the United States will partially host, the U.S. team has already shown that the team is continuing to improve. Saturday’s game will be another opportunity for the sport to grow in the country, and for the United States Men’s National Team to show how good they are now, and the potential they have for the future.