VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Memo to every women's national team on the planet:
Please pardon the United States and Japan for hogging the spotlight yet again by playing in their third consecutive major women's soccer championship game.
That's what happens when you produce quality teams and players.
Sunday's Women's World Cup final at B.C. Place will pit, for the first time in the history of women's international soccer, the defending Olympic medalists (USA) against the reigning world champions (Japan) in a title match. They are the two best teams to emerge from the 24-team field.
Since the first WWC in 1991, the Americans have defined excellence. They are the only country to finish at least third in all seven competitions as they vie for their third title and first since 1999. They also have earned four Olympic gold medals, including the last three.
Both sides have tasted agony and ecstasy.
When they met for the 2011 world title in Germany, the Americans twice lost leads, including one with three minutes left in extra time in a 2-2 draw. Japan won the shootout, 3-1.
A year later, Carli Lloyd etched her name into Olympic lore by becoming the first player to score game-winners in consecutive gold-medal matches in a 2-1 victory in London. The Americans enjoy a substantial 24-1-6 series advantage.
"In order to be the best team in the world at the World Cup, you have to beat the best teams," striker Abby Wambach said. "We just beat the No. 1 team in the world in Germany and now we face Japan, another team that we have so much respect for. They have an amazing team and they're the reigning World Cup champions, so I think it's going to be a fantastic final."