In the lead-up to the 1994 FIFA World Cup, the U.S. Men’s National Team ran more like a club than an international side. While the promise of starting a first division, outdoor league was part of what won the United States the big to host, Major League Soccer wasn’t to come until two years later.
As hosts, the U.S. had no World Cup Qualifying matches to build towards the tournament, and so beginning in 1991 - before the now customary FIFA International breaks - the U.S. Soccer Federation began scheduling more matches for the team than ever before: 17 in 1991, 22 in 1992 and a whopping 34 in 1993 -- the same number of matches an MLS club currently plays during the league’s regular season.
Coming off a strong four years at UCLA and praised for performances for the U.S. at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, young attacker Cobi Jones burst onto the full MNT scene, making three appearances in the team’s final matches of 1992. Jones’ speed and endurance combined with his ability to play both up front and out on the wing saw him adapt so well to Bora Milutinovic’s system that he appeared in 30 matches for the U.S. in 1993, setting both an MNT and a world record.
Jones’ record-setting 30th international match came 22 years ago Friday on December 18, 1993, when the U.S. fell 3-0 to reigning World Cup champions Germany – a squad featuring current MNT boss Jurgen Klinsmann - at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, Calif. While a defeat wasn’t a great way to cap the year, Jones - who had already broken the world record for appearances in a year - extended his mark to a place where it’s unlikely to ever be reached.
One could argue that the National Team’s setup at the time benefitted Jones the most. By the time the MNT’s club-style setup wrapped following the 1994 FIFA World Cup, the 24-year-old attacker had already amassed 56 caps in a little more than two years.
A veteran of three FIFA World Cups, Jones earned the last of his U.S. record 164 caps in 2004. The mark currently ranks him eighth all-time worldwide, having just been passed by Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas last month.