Glory Seekers

No team has been as successful in the Women’s World Cup as the United States. Yousef Teclab recaps the Stars and Stripes’ trophy-laden World Cup history…

Doing the legwork

1991 sees the United States women’s national team (USWNT) intensively prepare for the inaugural Women’s World Cup, taking place that year in China, under Coach Anson Dorrance. Many of their squad members decide to train full time so to prepare for the competition and play European countries in friendlies.

First of four

Utilising their attacking trident of Michelle Akers, Carin Jennings and April Heinrichs to devastating effect, the USWNT easily reach the final, with an aggregate score of 23-4, but they only narrowly beat Norway 2-1 to become world champions. Akers wins the Golden Boot and Heinrichs is Player of the Tournament.

Norwegian revenge

Dorrance resigns in 1994, replaced by Tony DiCicco, who leads the USWNT to the 1995 World Cup. Despite topping their group, they show chinks in their armour, drawing 3-3 with China and having goalkeeper Brianna Scurry sent off. Those chinks are exploited in the semi-final – Norway get their revenge by winning 1-0 to lift the World Cup.

Inspiring a generation

The 1999 World Cup was a watershed in women’s football. Hosting the competition benefited the USWNT, as they again reached the final, where they faced China. Roared on by 90,000 fans at the Rose Bowl in California, the game went to penalties, with Brandi Chastain’s winning spot kick sealing their second World Cup. Chastain’s celebration would be the defining image that inspired a new generation to play football.

Last four failure

With April Heinrichs as manager, the USWNT felt confident of defending their title in 2003 as they hosted the tournament again, stepping in after the SARS outbreak in China forced a relocation. The group stages are easily navigated but the knockout rounds are a different story. Old opponents Norway were barely dispatched in the quarter-finals, but they crashed out against Germany in a 3-0 semi-final defeat.

China crisis

The 2007 World Cup in China was a turbulent affair for the United States. Things started well by progressing to the knockout stages and beating England 3-0 in the quarter-finals. Yet manager Greg Ryan’s decision to bench Hope Solo for Scurry in the semi-final with Brazil proved disastrous. The South Americans annihilate the USWNT, who were beaten 4-0 – their worst ever defeat.

Penalty pain

Pia Sundhage becomes the USWNT’S first foreign Coach in 2008. The Swede has a strong 2011 World Cup squad – including Alex Morgan, Abby Wambach, Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe. With these weapons, the United States progressed to the final, where they faced Japan. Yet the Americans couldn’t shake off their stubborn opponents and lose via penalties.

Record breakers

Under the tutelage of Jill Ellis, the USWNT faced Japan again in the 2015 final. They would exact their revenge, as Carli Lloyd scored a first half hat-trick within 16 minutes, the fastest in World Cup history. The Americans romped to a 5-2 victory and became the first side to win three Women’s World Cups.

Rapinoe on the rise

The Stars and Stripes once again showed their dominance by powering through the group stages. Wins over Spain, the hosts France and England sealed another World Cup Final against the Netherlands. Megan Rapinoe was the difference in the knockout stages and scores the opener in the final. Rose Lavalle doubles the lead to seal their fourth World Cup and assert their dominance in women’s football.

Looking to the future

The 2023 World Cup will see the United States going for a fifth tournament win, assuming they qualify, to match the mark set by Brazil in the men’s tournament. They’ll do so under a new Coach, as Jill Ellis will step down in October.

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