May 24, 1938: This Day in World Cup History
On this day in 1938, the U.S. Men’s National Team battled Mexico in the first-ever World Cup qualifying match. The game was played at PNF Stadium in Rome, Italy, which would host the World Cup championship games between Italy and Czechoslovakia a few weeks later.
The match on May 24, 1938, was also the first meeting between the two North American nations in soccer history. The two neighboring countries had crossed the Atlantic Ocean to take part in the second World Cup in Italy, but due to the USA submitting a late entry form to the competition and the number of teams in Italy totaling 17, FIFA made the Americans take on Mexico in a qualifying match three days prior to the start of the tournament.
The match established forward Aldo “Buff” Donelli as one of the greatest names in American soccer history as he tallied all four goals in the 4-2 U.S. win over Mexico. However, in the first round of the actual competition the U.S. was well beaten by Italy, who went on to win the cup.