Five national football teams secured places at the 2014 World Cup on Tuesday night. Among them, the tournament regulars Italy, Argentina and the Netherlands. Not as prominent and perhaps overlooked in much of the world was another qualifying team - the United States.
The Americans will participate in their seventh consecutive staging of the world's biggest team sports event. Only Brazil, Germany, Italy, Argentina, Spain and South Korea have a longer run of successive appearances.
The appearance that kicked off the US run, in 1990, came after 40 years away from the World Cup, a gap when nearly all Americans considered football a strange, foreign sport enjoyed almost entirely by recent immigrants.
The 1990 team, which included only one professional, played at Italia '90 primarily because Mexico had been banned from Concacaf qualifying for using over-age players in a youth competition. Since then, the US has been an ever-present, something England, Uruguay, France and Portugal, among many other prominent footballing nations, cannot claim.
It was in 1998 that the US Soccer Federation commissioned Carlos Queiroz, the former Portugal coach, to author a plan entitled Project 2010, the year targeted for when the US would be a viable contender for the Jules Rimet Trophy.
The paper was considered an audacious, almost laughable, notion in 1998, but the US reached the final 16 of South Africa 2010.
Viable World Cup champion?
The US is not there and may find it impossible any time soon to crack the old-boys club of Brazil, Germany, Italy, Argentina and Spain. But another quarter-final run, like that of 2002, may be coming soon.
The current batch of American senior players, coached by Jurgen Klinsmann, has proven to be resilient and resourceful, if not quite technically gifted.
These Yanks are much like their predecessors: known for a high work rate, unselfishness and a willingness to ignore hopeless positions - perhaps because they still are not savvy enough to know when they are beaten.
Tactically, they are gaining ground. In a home game against Mexico last night, they allowed the desperate visitors to exhaust themselves in 30 minutes of pressure, scored a pair of second-half goals and qualified for Brazil with two games in hand.
This from a team with perhaps three recognisable names in its home country - Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard, for their time in England, and Landon Donovan, the leading scorer in US history.
Granted, the US path to the World Cup is not strewn with the obstacles found in Europe or Africa, or even Asia.
Concacaf has three automatic berths and the fourth-place team in the final group stage can qualify by winning a two-legged tie with New Zealand, the Oceania champion. Realistically, that should yield a fourth Concacaf bid for a continent with only three nations of dependable quality: the US, Mexico and Costa Rica.
Mexico might suggest Concacaf is tougher than it looks. The two-time quarter-finalists, who have been World Cup regulars since the 1990 ban and whose attackers include Javier Hernandez and Giovani dos Santos, find themselves fifth in the group with two matches left.
Observers of North American football can vouch for this: playing for the national side is more important to its footballers than are club achievements. That seems to have been reversed in several European countries, such as England, to the detriment of the national effort.
Should Mexico founder, allowing Honduras and Panama into the mix, perhaps the seven-for-seven steadiness of the US might come into sharper focus.
In a nation where "soccer" remains, at best, the fourth-most-popular sport, enough talent is being grown or, sometimes, recruited from countries where the US military left behind sons (the current side has four German-Americans) that the concept of Project 2010 turns out to have been ambitious but not ludicrous.