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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, have pushed the USWNT back to the top of the mountain in women’s soccer.