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Women’s World Cup: A Decade of Dominance for the United States?

Rarely has an international team in any sport dominated for as long as the United States have when it comes to the Women's World Cup, which they have won four times since the inaugural tournament in 1991.

The game has changed significantly in the intervening years with the tournament expanding from 12 to 32 teams, allowing more countries to compete at the highest level.

But one aspect remains constant - the United States are always among the teams to beat and anyone that gets the better of the Stars and Stripes are probably on course for the title themselves.

Previous winners

YearWinnerRunners-Up
1991United StatesNorway
1995NorwayGermany
1999United StatesChina
2003GermanySweden
2007GermanyBrazil
2011JapanUnited States
2015United StatesJapan
2019United StatesNetherlands

Inauspicious start to a decade of dominance

A decade of dominance for the US squad began somewhat inauspiciously when they almost failed to qualify for the 2011 World Cup.

Already three-time champions by that stage, Pia Sundhage's team were forced into a two-legged continental play-off with Italy for the last available slot at the finals in Germany because they slipped up against Mexico in the CONCACAF qualifying event.

A tense first encounter in Padua was decided by a last-gasp Alex Morgan goal and the US used home advantage to seal their place with another 1-0 victory in the second leg.

The following summer's tournament almost brought further glory as, after marching through the group stage, the Stars and Stripes overcame Brazil in the quarter-finals in a penalty shoot-out.

Abby Wambach's 122nd-minute leveller to take the game into spot-kicks was later voted the greatest goal in U.S. soccer history and the greatest goal in Women's World Cup history.

A relatively comfortable 3-1 win over France in the last four set up a classic showpiece final with Japan - the conquerors of hosts and European champions Germany in the last eight.

Despite leading once in regulation and again in extra-time, Japan fought back to take the game to penalties and prevailed 3-1 after the first three US penalties were unsuccessful.

Stars and Stripes on a collision course with Japanese rivals 

Revenge was taken 12 months later when the US won gold at the Summer Olympics in London, defeating Japan 2-1 in front of a record crowd at Wembley Stadium. 

It marked a fourth time in five Olympics that the US had finished atop the medal podium and offered a natural stepping-off point for Sundhage to pass the coaching baton on to someone else after compiling a 91–win, 6–loss record with 10 draws across her 107 top-level games in charge.

Jill Ellis stepped into the role and presided over the most successful run for the US team ever as the Stars and Stripes went on to top FIFA's ranking for the next 10 years.

The National Women's Soccer League, which was established in 2013, began to provide a conveyor belt of fresh talent for the national team as new stars like Julie Johnstone emerged while existing ones like Wanbach, Hope Solo, Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd became household names.

A 43-game unbeaten streak that spanned two years underlined the huge potential of the squad going into the next World Cup, which was being held in neighbouring Canada.

There, in 2015, Elis' squad brushed all comers aside, including former finalists China in the quarter-final and reigning European champions Germany in the last four.

The final, once more against Japan, proved to be a mismatch as Lloyd grabbed a hat-trick inside the opening 20 minutes en route to a 5-2 scoreline that probably flattered their opponents.

Squad retains hunger for perfect French finale

The curtain fell on Wambach's glittering career, but the core of the team were young enough to make it through the next four year cycle and there appeared to be plenty of hunger for more success within the group. 

They faced a small setback at the 2016 Rio Olympics when a penalty shoot-out loss to Sweden in the quarter-finals saw the team fail to make the semis of a major tournament for the first time.

But they peaked again in France three years later, having won the SheBelieves Cup and the Tournament of Nations in 2018 to issue a warning to their rivals.

Ellis' squad finished a perfect seven from seven in the 2019 finals, beating Thailand by a record 13-0 margin in their opening game.

A 3-0 victory over Chile followed before they concluded the group stage with a 2-0 win over a capable Sweden squad. 

Three straight 2-1 knockout stage wins over Spain, France and then England saw them reach a record third straight World Cup Final, where they completed the job in a professional manner against the Netherlands.

Ellis became the first women’s coach to win two World Cup titles in soccer history and their overall tally of 26 goals set a new record for the most scored by a single team in a Women’s World Cup tournament.

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