Does the 2023 World Cup signal the end of USWNT dominance?

When Sweden eliminated the USA women’s national team from the 2023 Women’s World Cup on Sunday, it marked the end of an era. It has been 4,403 days since the Americans last felt the pang of elimination from the World Cup, in the final of the 2011 Women’s World Cup against Japan. Now, in a little less than two weeks, a new world champion will be crowned.

There was also a certain inevitability associated with the demise of the USWNT – after all, no team wins forever. But the US team’s elimination from the World Cup felt more jarring than years of ruptures in American football – poor performances at youth World Cups, the lack of creative players, the wake-up call at the last Olympics, to name a few — suddenly became precipices, ending in a World Cup run well below the US team’s usual standard.

So does the end of this era herald an even more serious relapse for the US? Does the US intend to stop being the dominant force in the international game? That depends on your own definition. Does dominant mean winning trophies or being a competitor?

Throughout its history, USWNT has been at least the latter, and the team has won often enough to achieve the former. During their tenure as world champions, the Americans failed to win the gold medal at two Olympic Games. These included the 2016 quarter-final elimination by Sweden, which bore an uncanny resemblance to Sunday’s encounter – a loss on penalties in a game the Americans dominated. 16 years passed between the World Cup victories in 1999 and 2015, but there were three Olympic triumphs in between. All of this suggests there have been ups and downs in the US team’s dominance.

The problem in 2023 is that with the exception of the Sweden game, USA never looked like a competitor and recorded their worst result in a major tournament. The previous Olympics weren’t much better, although the USA took a bronze medal, so there are doubts as to where the USA’s journey is headed.

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How the US got to this point owes much to its own success. Even though the USA won World Championships and Olympic gold medals, it set a standard for other countries to emulate. And other nations have done just that, albeit with their own twists.

Investment at club level (mainly in Europe) has increased, leading to higher standards. This initially led to teams such as England, the Netherlands and Spain moving up the rankings. Now that influence is having an impact on other countries such as Colombia – who have eight players in their 23-man squad playing in Europe – as well as Morocco, who have 13 players in Europe, nine of them in France, England or Spain. (Morocco has too financial support from the royal family who have focused on grassroots efforts to give young players a chance to develop.)

There’s also an obvious fact: as teams rise, others must fall. That was the case at this World Cup, when Brazil, Canada and Germany all failed to make it past the group stage. We’re talking about the 8th, 7th and 2nd place teams in the world and while the USA also felt that impact, it may not have been as severe as it was for the aforementioned trio.



How much fault does Andonovski have for the failure of the USWNT World Championship?

Luis Miguel Echegaray questions head coach Vlatko Andonovski’s tactics after the USWNT were knocked out by Sweden at the Women’s World Cup.

“Women are playing in countries that have never had access to the game before,” said OL Reign GM Lesle Gallimore, who has also served as a college head coach and youth league commissioner. “So it’s just the natural evolution of the sport and the world game. I’m not trying to whine about it, but I think so if you step away from it [bitter] Pill of our early exit, and maybe people don’t like the performance that much – I’m sad about that too – I’m just as excited about the growth of the game around the world and how much attention people are paying.”

The increased investment has implications that go beyond simply expanding play opportunities. The number of teams that are more organized and skilled is higher than ever. The third game of the group stage against Portugal was a case in point: Portugal had a 56% to 44% possession advantage in the 0-0 draw with USA, a game Portugal almost won. This has helped erode America’s historical advantages in terms of fitness and athleticism.

University of Virginia women’s coach Steve Swanson served as Jill Ellis’ assistant at the 2015 and 2019 United States World Cup winning teams. He’s among those who don’t believe the United States is a weakening force and warns against overreacting performance of the Americans at this World Cup.

It is, for example, a small selection of games. Would the post-tournament discussion be the same if USA played better but lost a quarter-final to Japan? Or if players like Mal Swanson (no relation to Steve) or Catarina Macario had been available? For Swanson it doesn’t matter how the team did. There are issues that need to be addressed, and he wants a critical analysis of everything from talent detection to how the player pipeline works.

“You don’t want to overlook the problems, you want to overlook the symptoms,” he said.

One problem Steve Swanson notes is the type of players the US is producing. He estimates that because other national teams are much fitter and more organised, they have 40% less room to operate than five years ago. This makes it even more important for players to be able to make decisions and solve problems in a confined space.

“We’re not going to surpass those teams anymore, compete with them and have a better mentality than them,” Swanson said. “Maybe that was a good thing 20 years ago. It is no longer the case today. I’m not saying that it can’t be our bread and butter or that it can’t give us an advantage. It’s just because we’re fit, athletic and athletic.” A great mentality doesn’t guarantee wins, especially at this level. The decision making and the technical side need to be much more stressed. And these are things that we need to change in our different growing seasons and stages. “

In a country the size of the US, that won’t be easy, given the entrenched youth pay-to-play system and emphasis on winning at the expense of skill. Swanson admits that the US seems “kind of stuck” when it comes to player development, but one change that could steer the country in a positive direction is that professional sports are playing a bigger role in player development. This happened with the men, where US players are now much more in demand in Europe.



How much fault does Andonovski have for the failure of the USWNT World Championship?

Luis Miguel Echegaray questions head coach Vlatko Andonovski’s tactics after the USWNT were knocked out by Sweden at the Women’s World Cup.

Not every National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) team currently has a youth program. The league also doesn’t have its own player rule, although one is in the works. Given the reports of abuse the NWSL has gathered over the past two years, the league has rightly focused instead on fixing its on-pitch products and player safety systems. But the introduction of domestic initiatives would increase the number of career opportunities. It wouldn’t just be a “college or broke” scenario with a bunch of high school runaways like Alyssa Thompson.

“I think everyone has to be patient. We can’t solve this overnight,” Gallimore said. “I still believe there doesn’t have to be a linear way to wear the crest. But I think professional sport has evolved now. Our own league.” [the NWSL] has evolved to the point where we need to be present in this space and [determine] what it looks like to develop a player who can be successful as a professional.”

However, the US still has some exceptional players. Players like Naomi Girma, Lindsey Horan and Sophia Smith form the basis of a talented group, while the Sweden game was a reminder that USA can still beat one of the best teams in the world. It’s also worth noting that the US system helps produce top performers like Jamaica’s Khadija “Bunny” Shaw for other national teams. That’s why Anson Dorrance, the University of North Carolina women’s head coach who led the USA to their first World Cup win in 1991, said he was “not panicking” about events in New Zealand and Australia, citing the impending returns of Mal Swanson and Macario will “change things completely”.

“We have a pipeline,” Dorrance said. “We obviously have to solve problems in certain parts of the field. We have the population to solve these problems. So I’m not worried about the weak pockets on the field because I think those disappear absolutely need to be resolved.”



Alex Morgan is “not” planning to retire after being eliminated from the World Cup

Alex Morgan says she has no immediate plans to retire after USWNT is eliminated from the World Cup against Sweden.

Despite the optimism for the future, the doubts expressed at the last two major tournaments are hard to ignore. For the US to be back in the conversation when it comes to fighting for trophies, changes need to be made in the way the US is doing things, and those changes need to go beyond who the next coach will be. The USSF is tasked with driving this change, although here too there are doubts, especially after the Development Academy closed in 2020.

“I just think that our federation cannot change direction every time people [in charge] “I think they have to commit and really commit and do it.” Do it in a really sustainable way. That’s probably the sharpest way I can put it.

Most of these changes are unlikely to happen in time for the Paris Olympics, which begin in less than a year. It will likely be up to a new coach to take advantage of the talent that exists and make the most of it. The time horizon for the 2027 Women’s World Cup, which the USA is bidding to host with Mexico, is longer.

Overall, there is confidence that the USWNT can recover, but also urgency. Recent results call for a response.

Emma Bowman

Emma Bowman is a USTimesPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Emma Bowman joined USTimesPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing

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