With Alex Morgan’s dramatic 122nd minute goal to lift the United States over Canada in the semifinal of the London Olympics, the United States finds itself in the gold-medal game yet again.
And with the opportunity to rematch Japan and avenge last summer’s World Cup Final defeat, the United States squad continues to dominate the international arena of women’s soccer.
To put this into perspective, at every single tournament in the history of the sport, the United States has always clinched a semifinal berth, never finishing anything less than third place in any major tournament.
Starting with the first women’s World Cup in 1991 and the 1996 Olympics where women’s soccer was first recognized as an event, the Americans have always been at the top of their sport.
Although the faces have changed from Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain and Brianna Scurry to Abby Wambach, Megan Rapinoe and Hope Solo, the United States consistently plays at an elite level that the rest of the world cannot compete with.
The image of Brandi Chastain celebrating after scoring the winning penalty kick in the 1999 World Cup Final epitomizes the rise of the sport. The picture itself wound up on the front cover of Sports Illustrated, Newsweek and major publications throughout the United States. These women became idols for young girls taking up the sport—young girls that turned into the likes of Alex Morgan.
While the men’s program continues to grow under the label of “up and coming,” the women’s program has stayed at the top—while programs that were once equally as good like Norway and China have been usurped by France and Japan.
To put their dominance in context, their track record surpasses that of any professional team. To be the best in a 20-year span is unheard of in professional sports. The Bulls under Michael Jordan, the Yankees under Derek Jeter, the Dolphins under Dan Marino; none of them can compare to this women’s team.
On top of that, the squad has helped entrench the sport back home. Although the idea of a woman’s professional league has not been fully embraced by American fans, the national team has helped project soccer into national relevance.
For the first time, the MLS is receiving more coverage on national television. Games are packed with fans that, although do not rival the throngs of people that file into European games, provide an adequate atmosphere for the sport.
European giants like Chelsea and Real Madrid have started to tour the U.S. over the summer, spreading awareness and appreciation for the sport amongst Americans. The excitement of having such an extraordinary team represent the U.S. this summer has even furthered the spread of the sport.
So when the United States takes the field against Japan on Thursday to play for a gold medal, know that history is being made. The most dominant sports team in international history is making another statement.
This time, it should be labeled with gold.