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The Xtra Historic Moment: Ramos Reflects on USA '94: "My Proudest Moment as a Player"

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Prince Jean

Jun 22, 2024

The World Cup Throwback

Tab Ramos on the 1994 FIFA World Cup's Impact on US Soccer, Bora Milutinovic's Influence, and Praise from Alexi Lalas

Thirty years ago, the landscape of soccer in the USA was transformed by the 1994 FIFA World Cup™. A group of 22 players, previously unknown outside of soccer circles, became national icons overnight. One of the standout figures was Tab Ramos, a Uruguay-born, New Jersey-raised midfield maestro who played a crucial role in helping the USA qualify for Italy 1990, their first World Cup appearance in 40 years.

Ramos, one of the few Europe-based players on the 1994 squad, along with his teammates, sported fashionable mullet hairstyles and distinctive blue-denim jerseys. Their efforts on home soil earned them four points in the group stage, securing a spot in the knockout phase. The highlight of their campaign was a memorable 2-1 victory against tournament favorites Colombia at the iconic Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. This win inspired a generation of young American soccer fans to dream big.

Ramos recently shared his reflections with FIFA on the impact of the 1994 World Cup and its significance to him personally. Can you believe it’s been 30 years since USA 1994?

Tab Ramos: It does feel like it was just yesterday, but then you realize we’re getting older and the memories start to blur (laughs).

What are the first things that come to mind from that summer?

For our generation, we grew up with barely any national team presence and no World Cup experiences involving the US. Hosting and participating in the 1994 World Cup was surreal.

The 1994 FIFA World Cup™ ignited a passion for soccer among American fans, marking a turning point in the sport’s development in the United States.

What was it like trying to bring soccer to the forefront in the country?

We tried to connect with past players like Harry Keough and Walter Bahr from the 1950 World Cup. In the late 1980s, they were our only link to the sport’s history in the US. It was hard for anyone to understand the transition from soccer being almost non-existent to becoming mainstream.

How did it feel going from anonymity to stardom?

Some of us had experience playing overseas, but our national team lacked a following. In 1990, we sold out St. Louis Soccer Park with 8,200 people. By 1994, we played Mexico in front of 100,000. It was incredible to be part of the generation that saw this rapid growth.

Is there a particular game or moment from World Cup '94 that you recall with fondness?

The Colombia game stands out. I remember many details from that match. The Switzerland game was also significant—it was our first home game in a domed stadium and incredibly hot. We were nervous but determined not to disappoint.

Is the 1994 World Cup your proudest moment as a US Soccer player?

Absolutely. For our generation, the 1994 World Cup was about delivering for our country. We competed with dignity, were a strong team, and unafraid of any opponent. We made significant progress in five years.

What stood out about Bora Milutinovic as a coach?

Bora’s fearlessness was key. He believed in us, and his confidence was infectious. He was unique and deeply insightful, providing the mental strength we needed. His influence was vital to our success.

Alexi Lalas recently hailed you as the best player he ever played with, saying you could easily start in today’s USMNT. What does that mean to you?

I’m deeply honored. Our generation was different, and having qualities others lacked was a part of it. To have such support from a teammate means more than any award. It’s special because it comes from someone who shared those challenging moments.

The 1994 FIFA World Cup™ remains a landmark event that changed the trajectory of soccer in the USA, creating a legacy that continues to inspire future generations.

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