VANCOUVER, British Columbia - After the United States made surprisingly easy work of defending champion Japan in the Women's World Cup final on Sunday, Golden Ball winner Carli Lloyd reflected on the accomplishment.
"We made history," she said after the 5-2 triumph. "We're a part of history. When I watched the '99 team play, never do you really think you could be part of something like that, part of a World Cup team. Never do you really think you could play in a World Cup final and win.
"Those were the pioneers. Now it's our turn to keep the tradition going. In four years' time, we want to be world champions again."
Given the U.S. team's outstanding 24-year tradition, which includes three world championships, it's a realistic goal.
To put the Americans' accomplishment in proper perspective, 16 of the 24 teams in the World Cup had scoring totals of five or fewer goals. The U.S. team tallied five in 90 minutes against the second-best team on the planet.
"They always had that fifth gear," Canada coach John Herdman told the Vancouver Province. "When they play at that level, no one can stop them."
The Americans are to women's soccer what the Brazilians are to the men's game. Both are expected to win.
As it turns out, the U.S. women have been more successful than the Brazilian men. They have never finished below third place in seven Women's World Cups and have mined gold in four of five Olympics, losing the fifth in extra time in the 2000 final. The Brazilian men have won five World Cups but never have captured an Olympic gold medal.
Speaking of Brazil, next on the women's agenda is the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro next summer.
Coach Jill Ellis will begin worrying about that soon enough after she and the rest of the team get down from Cloud 9. Ellis will have some difficult decisions to make because Olympic rosters are smaller (18 players) than World Cup rosters (23).
Can she afford to keep 36-year-old Abby Wambach, the leading international goal-scorer, as a super-sub in a more compact tournament? Wambach has talked about returning for the Olympics.
"Winning often brings closure, brings a sense of accomplishment that she can put it to rest, [that she] doesn't have to prove anything else," U.S. women's technical director April Heinrichs said Monday. "She may feel differently. It might change things for her, and all of us would understand why it would."
Goalkeeper Hope Solo, who is at the top of her game as the Golden Glove winner, faces issues concerning her involvement in domestic violence.
U.S. Soccer has been quite supportive of Solo, who was suspended for a month earlier this year, though there have been rumblings that the federation might cut ties with her. Solo did not talk to the print media after the game.
Backups Ashlyn Harris and Alyssa Naeher are promising but inexperienced internationally.