The U.S. women’s national team exited the World Cup by millimeters in Sunday’s shootout loss to Sweden, and the Round of 16 exit raised questions about the future of the program.

“I think anyone who would say the U.S. is done is very mistaken,” USWNT defender Naomi Girma said after the match. “There’s a lot of us coming up who are going to learn from this, a lot of us who are going to be motivated to get better and get better results. So yeah, I think there’s a lot more ahead of us, and that’s exciting.”

Girma isn’t wrong. Yes, the USWNT was missing key players in Catarina Macario, Mal Swanson, Becky Sauerbrunn, Christen Press and more. But there’s still a lot to be proud of – and to hope for – with this squad.

And as the USWNT sets its sights on the Paris Olympics, it likely will do so with a new coach and a healthier roster. While there are no guarantees, the team has never let its standard slip for long.

The early World Cup exit has brought a lot of talk about the world catching up with the USWNT. But let’s not forget the 16-year period from 1999-2015, in which the USWNT went without winning a World Cup title. More recent fans don’t remember those times, thanks to two straight World Cup wins in 2015 and 2019. But teams like Sweden, Japan and Germany have always been right there with the USWNT. And now new teams like Colombia, Nigeria, Jamaica, Morocco and more are right in the thick of the competition.

Still, even when stacked against new contenders and old rivals, and even after its earliest World Cup exit ever, the USWNT is far from done.

“It’s the U.S.,” Sweden’s Kosovare Asllani said Sunday. “They will raise their standards, and they’re going to come back. I’ve heard there’s been a lot of talk about it, but they will come back for sure. They have so much quality in their team, and this defeat will not take them down. I expect them to be ready for the next World Cup. … I wouldn’t say that they’re out of the game at all. So don’t talk s— about the U.S. women.”

USWNT fans should be “proud” of their team, she continued.

“You have a really good team, and really good players, and they are taking the fight not just on the pitch, outside of the pitch,” she said. “And this is what it takes to raise women’s football to the next level. So I think you should encourage them and be a little bit more positive towards them.”

Sweden’s Magdalena Eriksson added that the USWNT proved in Sunday’s shootout loss that “they’re still an amazing team.”

“They’re definitely the toughest team we’ve faced in the tournament,” she said. “So, no, the future is still bright for the U.S.,” she said. “They’re still a massive powerhouse in women’s football, and they will be for a long time.”