By Michael Lewis | July 10, 2019, 3:44 p.m. (ET)

Carli Lloyd lifts the trophy as the USWNT celebrate winning the 2019 FIFA Women's World on July 07, 2019 in Lyon, France.

 

PARIS -- On Sunday, the U.S. women’s soccer team completed a memorable month in France by beating the Netherlands to claim its record fourth FIFA Women’s World Cup title.

The journey was filled with records, milestones and honors. For example:

• The Americans have now won half of the eight World Cups since 1991. They are the only national team in the world that has qualified for at least the semifinal in all competitions.

• The U.S. has won the World Cup four times — 1991, 1999, 2015 and 2019 — and reached the 2011 final, losing to Japan. The team’s only “failures” came in 1995, 2003 and 2007 when it took third place.

• And oh yes, the Red, White and Blue also joined Germany (2003, 2007) as the only countries to win back-to-back titles.

Now, if that isn’t enough records, milestones and superlatives for you, then take a journey with us — a soccer Tour de France, if you will — on the team’s historic and record-setting performance en route to its second consecutive world championship.

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First Stop — Reims (USA vs. Thailand)

 

It was difficult keeping up with all the goals and records the U.S. accrued during its relentless 13-0 victory over Thailand to open play in Group F on June 11. There were so many milestones reached and records broken that we might break the internet if we listed them all.

Seriously, here we go:

• That margin of victory was the highest ever in a World Cup encounter, shattering the previous mark of 7-0, produced by — guess who? — the U.S. in a 7-0 win over Chinese Taipei in the very women’s first tournament in 1991.

• Alex Morgan (five goals), Rose Lavelle (two goals) and Samantha Mewis (two goals) helped the Americans to become the first squad to have three players to tally multiple goals in a game. With four other players finding the net, the U.S. equaled the competition record of seven goal-scorers in a match.

• One of those players, Mallory Pugh, was the 32nd American player to connect for a goal during a Women’s World Cup. Only Germany (34) had more.• Morgan’s five goals tied the game record set by the legendary Michelle Akers against Chinese Taipei in 1991. And oh yes, Morgan also collected three assists in the match. So, no other player has been associated with that many points (eight) in a World Cup match.

• And one more thing about Morgan. She joined Carin Jennings Gabarra (1991), Akers (1991) and Carli Lloyd (2015) as the only Americans who registered World Cup hat tricks.

• During the second-half onslaught, the U.S. tallied four times within a six-minute span from the 50th to 56th minutes, the fastest four goals in tournament history.

• Lloyd’s score gave her goals in five successive Women’s World Cup games, dating back to Canada 2015, tying the achievement of German striker Birgit Prinz (2003). That record, however, would not last that long. But you will have to read on to learn more about that.

 

Next Venue: Paris (USA vs. Chile)

 

U.S. coach Jill Ellis decided to make seven lineup changes for Game 2, and by the time the U.S. had beaten Chile 3-0 on June 16 every American field player had seen action in France. That mean the only two U.S. players who didn’t see the field in France were backup goalies Adrianna Franch and Ashlyn Harris. Meanwhile, Jessica McDonald, Allie Long and Emily Sonnett made their World Cup debuts against Chile.

• Lloyd, the Golden Ball winner in 2015, scored twice in the opening half. That meant the two-time Olympic gold medalist had scored goals in six games in a row, moving past Prinz.

• And we’re not finished with Lloyd just yet. At 36 years, 11 months, the former Rutgers star became the oldest player to score more than once in a Women’s World Cup encounter. She broke the mark set by Brazil’s Cristiane (34 years, 25 days) vs. Jamaica in this year’s competition.

 

Third City: Le Havre (USA vs. Sweden)

 

If Sweden is a familiar team to you, it should be. The Swedes have faced the Americans in five consecutive World Cups, and they have been a nemesis in recent years, defeating the U.S. in the quarterfinals of the Olympic Games Rio 2016. On June 20, however, with both teams having already advanced to the knockout round, Sweden rested some players, and the Americans took advantage in cruising to a 2-0 victory. The win improved the U.S. record to 4-1-1 against Sweden in World Cup play.

• Lindsey Horan scored the earliest goal to date in this tournament, connecting in the third minute. She became the fourth U.S. player to score in the opening three minutes of a Women’s World Cup match. An own goal by Sweden’s Jonna Andersson in the 50th minute gave the Americans some breathing room.

• With its third shutout in a row, the U.S. also blanked all three group-stage opponents. It was Team USA’s seventh clean sheet in its last eight matches.

• In fact, the U.S. (also 1999, 2003, 2019) and Germany (1991, 2003, 2011, 2019) are the only two teams to have won all three of their group stage matches in four World Cups.

 

No. 4: Back to Reims (USA vs. Spain)

 

The Megan Rapinoe Show started to dominate games and headlines as the striker converted two penalty kicks — early and late — to boost the Americans to a 2-1 win over upstart Spain in the Round of 16 on June 24.

• This could have been the closest game to a nail-biter for the U.S. After Rapine opened the scoring in the seventh minute, Jennifer Hermoso stunned the defending champions only two minutes later to equalize at 1-1. Hermoso became the first foe to pierce the U.S. defense in the tournament, and the first overall since a wild 5-3 triumph over Australia in a friendly on April 4, a span of 648 minutes.

• Rapinoe took center stage yet again in the 76th minute as she beat goalkeeper Sandra Paños to the lower left side for the second time in the match with her second penalty kick. That set piece was set up by a foul on Rose Lavelle in the box. Video Assistant Referee was needed to confirm it was indeed a penalty.

 

Host Country In Paris (USA vs. France)

 

The game everyone targeted since the World Cup draw in December became reality on June 28. After taking a 3-1 beating by the French beating in its first friendly of the year, the U.S. got the best revenge at Parc des Prince with a 2-1 quarterfinal victory.

The crowd — packed with partisan French and about 10,000 Americans — was so loud that it made for a fabulous atmosphere and sometimes made it difficult for some fans and media to hear themselves think.

Rapinoe again took center stage again by scoring both goals — in the fifth and 65th minutes — to give the Americans a two-goal advantage. Wendie Renard headed home Gaëtane Thiney’s feed in the 81st minute to cut the lead to one, but it was too little and too late for the host side, which exited a major tournament in the quarterfinals yet again.

• The Americans became the second team to win 10 consecutive World Cup games, matching Norway’s run from 1995-99.

• The match turned out to be a milestone for Ellis, who directed her 125th game as coach, breaking the record held by April Heinrichs (who was a member of that 1991 world championship side). The win also was Ellis’ 100th as USWNT head coach. She trails the late Tony DiCicco (105).

• Incidentally, when Rapinoe was replaced by Christen Press in the 87th minute, no one realized she had strained a hamstring muscle, which would affect her availability for the semifinals.

• With the win, the U.S. became the first and only team to reach the semifinals of all eight Women’s World Cups.

 

On To Lyon (USA vs. England)

 

This game will be remembered for goalie Alyssa Naeher stepping forward to answer questions about coming up with the big save. Before the kickoff, though, all the buzz was about a player not in the lineup. Rapinoe was kept out of the semifinal match with England on July 2 due to the hamstring injury, though the cause for her absence was only revealed after the 2-1 win at Le Stade de Lyon.
  
• Press, who replaced Rapinoe in the Starting XI, made the most out of a rare start by striking in the 10th minute, heading home a Kelley O’Hara right-wing cross.
 
• England striker Ellen White equalized in the ninth minute before Morgan gave the Americans a 2-1 edge in the 31st minute. That gave both players six goals for the tournament, tied for the lead. Some of the 53,512 fans later sang “Happy Birthday” to Morgan, who turned 30 that day.
 
• With three goals in just about the opening half hour, it seemed the game was destined to become a high-scoring affair. It didn’t, particularly thanks to Naeher, who produced two big saves. The first came two minutes after Morgan’s goal as she denied Keira Walsh’s shot from distance. The more dramatic stop occurred in the 84th minute as Naeher dove to her right to stop Steph Houghton’s penalty kick after Becky Sauerbrunn had fouled White in the box.

• In the end, the U.S. remained undefeated in games in which Morgan scored a goal — a streak that reached 73 games.

 

One Last Stop: Lyon (USA vs. Netherlands)

 

For the first time in the tournament, the U.S. failed to score a goal in the opening 12 minutes. You can blame some sloppy passing, the Netherlands’ tight marking, particularly in the first half, and the outstanding performance by Dutch goalkeeper Sari Van Veenendaal at Le Stade de Lyon.

The Americans, however, broke through on Rapinoe’s penalty kick, her sixth goal of the tournament, in the 61st minute. They got a break via VAR, which ruled that Stefanie Van Der Gragt had fouled Morgan in the area. This time Rapinoe slotted her kick to the right to boost the U.S. into the lead.

Eight minutes later, Lavelle, who was awarded the Bronze Ball as the third best player of the tournament, put the game away with a brilliant midfield run before splitting the defense and powering a shot from atop the penalty area for a 2-0 advantage and final score.

• Rapinoe earned the Golden Ball (MVP) and Golden Boot (leading goal-scorer). In fact, she became the fifth player to nab both trophies in the same tournament, joining China’s Sun Wen (1999), Prinz (2003), Brazil’s Marta (2007) and Japan’s Homare Sawa (2011).

• It should not be surprising that Rapinoe is only the second player to start three Women’s World Cup finals (2011, 2015, 2019), after Prinz (1995, 2003, 2007).

• In case you were wondering, the U.S. has not lost a game in which Rapinoe has scored since a 3-2 defeat to Brazil in 2014, a span of 16 games (14-0-2).

• The U.S. never trailed in this World Cup, equaling the achievements by its 1991 and 2015 teams. The Americans are unbeaten in their last 17 Women’s World Cup games (14-0-3), winning the last 12 matches. They also are the only squad to win 12 consecutive WWC matches.

Ellis became only the second coach — men’s or women’s — to guide teams to back-to-back wins. Vittorio Pozzo was the first, leading Italy to men’s World Cup wins in 1934 and 1938.

Michael Lewis, who covers soccer for Newsday, has written about the sport for four decades and has written six books about soccer. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.