In the run-up to the 2011 Women's World Cup, the US Women's National Team talked about forming its own identity, becoming its own team. Since the 1999 World Cup, each team has lived in the shadows, unable to break free from what that team accomplished. The memories of 1999 -- Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain waving her shirt around her head and the thrill Women's World Cup win on American soil -- remained, with every team compared to what was accomplished at the Rose Bowl.
Throughout the 2011 Women's World Cup, the mantra has stayed the same. This team, this year, is different, and wants to separate itself from events that happened 12 years ago. Instead of embracing the past, the players have embraced themselves, using it as motivation during their World Cup run. It's worked, and this version of the US Women's National Team is on the cusp of duplicating what the 1999 team did.
The interplay and dynamic has been interesting to watch. As players talk about blazing their own trail and creating their own identity, ESPN trots out countless players from the 1999 Women's World Cup champion team. Hope Solo talks about wanting this team to be the future, then ESPN pans to Chastain to ask for her thoughts. For better or worse, the 1999 US Women's National Team is the gold standard, and what we all associate women's soccer in the USA with.
Women's soccer has the attention of the American public, thanks to a few thrilling wins and an entertaining brand of soccer. We don't know whether this team will have the same lasting affect that the 1999 team had, and it's all for naught if the American side can't win on Sunday. Beat Japan and win a third Women's World Cup for the United States and, perhaps, the 2011 squad can step out of a shadow that's lingered for 12 years. Lose and it was a great, yet unsatisfying, run that ends in disappointment.
The USA takes the field on Sunday morning at 11:45 a.m. in the 2011 Women's World Cup Finals.