Buffeted by the strong winds and bruised by a physical USA, the All Blacks Sevens have placed fourth in Las Vegas.
They will be very disappointed with their final position after performing so well against England in the Cup quarter-final and in the first half of the semifinal against Fiji.
In the bronze medal match against the fired up hosts, New Zealand never really got going after conceding an early try to Maka Unufe. It didn't help that Dylan Collier received his second yellow card of the tournament for a high tackle.
But New Zealand were able to peg it back through tries to the old form of DJ Forbes and Tim Mikkelson. Sione Molia scored a spectacular solo try for New Zealand to reclaim a 15-14 lead, but USA held their nerve and scored via Andrew Durutalo from a quick tap.
Tone Ng Shiu won a rare start, while Ambrose Curtis came into the squad for the injured Vilimoni Koroi.
New Zealand will hold into fourth position overall in the World Series standings as they enter this weekend's tournament in Vancouver, where they are the defending champs.
That was their last victory on the circuit, 12 months ago. They will be seeking a wider field and less wind, along with that elusive consistency they need to challenge the front-runners. Their defence was generally sound, but they lost three out of six games, all of them by five points or less.
In the Cup final, South Africa won their fourth Cup title in five events, and third straight, defeating Fiji 19-12. They now lead the series by a whopping 24 points at the halfway stage.
USA 19 (Maka Unufe, Danny Barrett, Andrew Durutalo tries; Stephen Tomasin 2 con)
New Zealand 15 (DJ Forbes, Tim Mikkelson, Sione Molia) HT: 7-5 USA