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2024 Concacaf W Gold Cup

What’s next for the USWNT after shock defeat to Mexico?

It’s perhaps no longer enough to praise the gradual improvements of the underdog. Is this really about the world catching up? Or is it more that the U.S. is slowing down?

The Mexico women’s national team celebrates in a huddle against the USWNT
Mexico forward Mayra Pelayo (20) celebrates with her teammates after scoring a goal against the United States during the second half of a game at Dignity Health Sports Park. (Photo credit: Jessica Alcheh | USA TODAY Sports)

As the full-time whistle went and Tina Turner’s “Simply the Best” blasted out around the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif., on Monday night, a group of disconsolate Americans gathered in a circle on the field. On this particular occasion, the song was not intended for them. In their final group game of the Concacaf W Gold Cup, the United States women’s national team had just been beaten 2-0 by Mexico, a side 33 places below them in the FIFA rankings.

The sense of confusion was palpable. What on Earth had just happened? Yes, Mexico is an improved force, with an increasingly strong domestic league of its own. They are, and were, roared on by a large base of passionate soccer fans. But nobody, perhaps not even the Mexican players and supporters themselves, expected this. 

For a few years, it has been argued that the rest of women’s soccer is catching up to the United States. That narrative is an overly simplistic one, considering the U.S. endured 16 years without World Cup success between 1999 and 2015. However, there is no doubt that the professionalization of the game worldwide has increased opportunities for players to cross borders, even continents, in search of a career and to continue developing their game. That, in turn, means more teams with a star or two in their ranks, more teams who — on their day — can beat anyone in front of them.

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