Despite suffering a 2-0 loss against Costa Rica at the Estadio Nacional in San Jose, the Stars and Stripes booked their place in the tournament with a third-place finish in Concacaf World Cup qualifying.
The States headed into the clash in the knowledge a victory, a draw or a defeat by no more than six goas would have ensured progression.
As a result, Costa Rica made changes to their starting XI to protect those at risk of suspension, but defended well to limit the USA to set-piece chances.
Miles Robinson and Ricardo Pepi almost broke the deadlock but Keylor Navas proved equal to the efforts, while Steffen remained untroubled at the other end for the first half an hour. The two sides headed into the break goalless.
Navas denied Robinson once more shortly after the restart with neither Tim Weah or Walker Zimmerman able to convert the rebound before Costa Rica opened the scoring on 51 minutes when Juan Pablo Vargas headed home Brandon Aguilera's corner.
Eight minutes later, their lead was doubled, courtesy of another set-piece - Anthony Contreras finding the net from close range after Steffen had done well to initially thwart the forward.
Although the USA pressed for a route back into the game, Yunus Musah's effort from the edge of the box proved the closest the visitors came to reducing the deficit and Costa Rica held on for the victory.
The result meant the USA finished third in the Octagonal standings - level on points with Costa Rica but boasting a superior goal difference to clinch one of the confederation’s three automatic berths, alongside Canada and Mexico.
Meanwhile, Costa Rica will face New Zealand in a play-off for a final World Cup spot.
The World Cup draw takes place on Friday 1 April at 17:00 UK time.