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2023 Women's World Cup

USWNT wrestling with identity ahead of World Cup

Photo Copyright Chris Jones for USA TODAY Sports

There is a curious, ongoing internal tug-of-war regarding the predicament of the United States women’s national team. On one hand, there is angst, a sense that, after the successes of the past, everyone else is catching up and the glory days are soon to be over. Simultaneously, there is a confidence that everything will be alright in the end, that when the big tournament starts, the U.S. will show up and get it done.

Right now, after a SheBelieves Cup featuring three wins and a mixed bag of performances against solid opposition, with the 2023 World Cup closing in on the horizon, these contradictory beliefs have never been more evident. What’s strange is that neither seems to have any basis in reality.

The United States has dominated women’s soccer in the past, but it hasn’t always, and it certainly isn’t on some sort of linear downward trajectory. In the 1990s, they won the first World Cup, the first Olympic women’s soccer tournament, and finished the decade on top, Brandi Chastain’s penalty celebration in the 1999 World Cup final becoming one of the iconic sporting images. What isn’t talked about so much is just how competitive Norway and China were, with completely different styles.

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