On Thursday, the USWNT defeated Japan 2-1 in a thrilling match to re-establish itself as the world’s pre-eminent soccer team.
Following the celebrations will come a three-year lull before the next major international competition, the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, which will be held in Canada.
Here are three positives the USWNT can take towards that competition.
The USWNT is, once again, the world’s best
Last summer, it became apparent that the rest of the world had rapidly caught up to the USWNT.
Even though the U.S. has always had its traditional rivalries, whether it be China, Norway, Germany, Brazil, Japan or now even Canada, the USWNT was always considered the team to beat.
That reputation had begun to slide a bit over the past year as sides like Japan and France made tactical evolutions developing possession styles that the U.S. struggled against.
While the USWNT still won most of those battles, it was becoming more and more due to their athleticism, fitness, competitiveness and work rate rather than being the most technically or tactically advanced side.
And while one could still argue that Japan is still more technically or tactically advanced, there is no doubt that the U.S. has upped its game in those departments over the last year.
Following the disappointment of the 2011 World Cup, the USWNT made several tactical moves including implementing a system which emphasized pressure further up the pitch. The USWNT also began focusing more on a possession-oriented system and replaced traditional American “hustle” players with players who are more technically adept.
Those changes, combined with the advantages in athleticism, fitness, competitiveness and work rate that the U.S. still maintains, has pushed the USWNT back to the top of the mountain in women’s soccer.
Even with impending retirements, the USWNT roster is DEEP
The current USWNT roster has seven players on the wrong side of 30 including Hope Solo, Christie Rampone, Amy LePeilbet, Heather Mitts, Carli Lloyd, Shannon Boxx and Abby Wambach.
No one knows which of these players will be retiring before 2015, or which players may lose their roster position over the next three years. But one thing is for certain. The USWNT is still the deepest squad in the world.
Alex Morgan, Sydney Leroux, Lauren Cheney, Tobin Heath and Kelley O’Hara are all under the age of 25.
Heather O’Reilly, Megan Rapinoe, Rachel Buehler, Ali Krieger, Stephanie Cox and Becky Sauerbrunn will all still be in their prime years come 2015.
And youngsters such as Christen Press, Meghan Klingenberg and Whitney Engen are all waiting in the wings.
There is talk of a new women’s professional league in the United States
One of the biggest worries for fans of the USWNT, and certainly the players themselves, has been what would happen to the players in the lull between the 2012 London Olympics and the 2015 Women’s World Cup.
With the folding of the WPS earlier this year, the women of the USWNT scattered to a variety of semi-pro leagues, such as the W-League and WPSL.
However, just before the Olympic Gold medal match kicked off, reports emerged that talks had begun to resuscitate a pro league in America.
Many fans have been fearful that once the Olympics were over, their favorite USWNT players would be forced to go to Europe to play professionally.
Such a move, as has already been taken by many American players such as Ali Krieger and, more recently, top American prospect Lindsey Horan, could be a death blow to U.S. dominance in the sport.
With Americans unable to watch their favorite players play on a regular basis, whether in person, or on television, interest in women’s soccer in America would inevitably decline.
The possibility of professional soccer coming back to America is a welcome, and ultimately necessary, undertaking to help maintain America’s dominance in the women’s game.
John D. Halloran