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World Cup history: 2023 marks earliest exit ever for USWNT

Lindsey Horan comforts Sophia Smith after the USWNT's loss to Sweden on penalty kicks at the 2023 World Cup. (Robin Alam/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

The U.S. women’s national team managed a historic run at the 2023 World Cup, but not the one the two-time defending champions wanted.

With Sunday’s 5-4 loss to Sweden on penalties, the USWNT was eliminated in the Round of 16 in its earliest World Cup exit ever. Since the first Women’s World Cup in 1991, the USWNT had never bowed out before the semifinals and had never finished lower than third place.

Just Women’s Sports has the USWNT’s complete World Cup timeline, which includes four titles across nine tournaments.

1991: World Cup championship

In 1991, the USWNT won the first-ever Women’s World Cup, defeating Norway 2-1 to take home the title.

1995: Third-place finish

The USWNT followed up its inaugural World Cup win with a third-place finish in 1995. The Americans lost to 1991 runner-up Norway in the semifinal round but won the third-place match against China.

1999: World Cup championship

Eight years after winning the first World Cup title, the USWNT returned to the throne, defeating China in the final 5-4 in the penalty kick shootout after a 0-0 draw in regulation.

2003: Third-place finish

The USWNT finished in third place at the 2003 World Cup, losing to eventual champion Germany in the semifinals.

2007: Third-place finish

As mentioned above, 2007 marks the last time the USWNT faced elimination in the group stage. The team went on to finish in third after losing to Brazil in the semifinals.

2011: Runner-up finish

This tournament continued a run of almost-but-not-quite World Cup runs for the USWNT, which lost to Japan in the championship match.

2015: World Cup championship

After 16 years, the USWNT won the World Cup once again, getting revenge on Japan with a 5-2 win in the final to win its third championship.

2019: World Cup championship

The USWNT’s fourth World Cup in eight tournaments completed a dominant title defense in 2019, with the U.S. beating the Netherlands 2-0 in the final.

2023: Round of 16 exit

A 5-4 loss to Sweden on penalties ended the shortest World Cup run in USWNT history. The teams played to a scoreless draw through regulation and extra time, but Sweden advanced in the shootout.

A poor showing in the group stage helped doom the U.S. to its fate. The two-time defending champions finished second to the Netherlands in Group E, which set up an early clash with powerhouse Sweden. In contrast, the Netherlands managed a 2-0 win against South Africa in its Round of 16 match.