The USWNT claimed a place in soccer history by winning back-to-back World Cup titles in 2015 and 2019, but the Americans were hardly the first to do it. In fact, three other teams achieved that feat before them.

With the 2023 Women’s World Cup tournament now in its win-or-go-home games, it’s a good time to revisit some of the greatest knockout-round teams in history. These are the nations whose men and women managed to win titles in two straight World Cup competitions – one of the toughest achievements in all of sports.

Has any country won back-to-back World Cups?

Four countries have been back-to-back FIFA World Cup winners -- two in the men’s competition, and two in the women’s.

On the men’s side, this feat hasn’t been achieved since Brazil managed it in 1958 and 1962, some 24 years after Italy’s men won back-to-back championships in 1934 and 1938.

Germany was the first team to repeat as Women’s World Cup champion -- claiming the 2003 and 2007 titles during a period when it dominated the women’s game.

The U.S. women’s soccer team became the most recent back-to-back World Cup winner, capturing the trophy in both 2015 and 2019. Those two wins were the Americans’ third and fourth titles.

Has there ever been a three-peat World Cup?

There has not yet been a three-peat. No team in either men’s or women’s World Cup history has won three tournaments in a row.

A few teams have come close, with both Brazil and Argentina winning two in the space of three years in the men’s competition, and Brazil making three straight finals between 1994 and 2002.

In 2023, the USWNT have an opportunity to become the first team to complete the three-peat, as the Americans are looking to defend their 2015 and 2019 titles at this year's competition in Australia and New Zealand.

World Cup Winners History

Brazil is the most successful nation in men’s World Cup history. Brazil has won a total of five World Cup competitions, which is one more than Germany and Italy, which each have four men’s titles.

Germany has reached the men's final eight times -- winning four -- and holds the record for championship-game appearances. The Germans are also the most successful soccer nation when championships from the men’s and women’s tournaments are combined. Germany’s four men’s titles and two women’s titles give the Germans six in all – surpassing Brazil’s total.

In Women’s World Cup competition, the Americans are dominant – reaching the final in five of eight tournaments and taking home four championships.

Germany has won the women’s title twice, while Japan and Norway each have one championship. At the 2023 Women’s World Cup, the Americans are attempting to win their fifth tournament, which would also be their third in a row. They entered this year’s competition as the favorite to win the women’s World Cup.

Back-to-back World Cup Winners

Italy Men’s Team (1934 and 1938)

The first World Cup competition took place in 1930, and four years later, Italy hosted the tournament. Matches were played at eight locations around the country, and the final took place in Rome. Italy defeated the USA, Spain, and Austria to reach the final, where it was able to play in front of a home crowd.

The Italians were trailing Czechoslovakia before tying the game in the 81st minute. They then scored the winning goal early in extra time.

Four years later, Italy defended its title in France to become the first World Cup back-to-back winners just three tournaments into the event’s history.

The 1938 final, played in Paris, ended with a 4-2 win over Hungary. Italy had knocked out the host French team in the quarterfinals and went on to win the championship with a powerful performance in the final.

Brazil Men’s Team (1958 and 1962)

Brazil’s legendary men’s team reached its first World Cup final as the host nation at the 1950 event. The all-South American matchup pitted Brazil against Uruguay, which was one of the world’s best international soccer teams in the World Cup’s early years.

The 1950 final was held at Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro. A total of 173,000 fans bought a ticket to the game, and the actual estimated attendance ended up being around 220,000 people after thousands of fans entered the stadium illegally. The match holds the World Cup attendance record to this day, and it’s one record unlikely to ever be broken.

Brazil lost 2-1 – a heartbreaking moment for the nation that had hosted parades and parties in anticipation of winning the competition. So, when the Brazilians made it back to the final in 1958, it was a chance for redemption.

Brazil beat 1958 tournament host Sweden 5-2 in the final. This time, it was the Brazilians’ turn to spoil the party -- and they did so in emphatic fashion. Brazil came back from a 1-0 deficit to take a 3-1 lead before closing out the game. Pele scored twice, as Brazil proved too much for Sweden.

Four years later, Brazil reached the final again even though Pele had been injured in the group stage and missed the rest of the tournament. This time, the Brazilians beat Czechoslovakia, once again rebounding from a 1-0 deficit to take a 3-1 lead and successfully defend their title.

The Brazilian teams of the late 1950s and early 1960s were iconic, featuring the likes of Pele, Zito, Didi, and Garrincha, who were all at the peak of their careers.

After its consecutive victories, Brazil went on to win three more FIFA World Cup championships over the next 40 years. The nation remains the most recent back-to-back men’s World Cup champion – an honor no other country has achieved in the 61 years since Brazil successfully defended its title.

Germany Women’s Soccer Team (2003 and 2007)

Against European competition, the German women’s national team was nearly unstoppable for more than two decades from the late 1980s through the 2010s.

Germany won eight of a possible nine European Cups between 1989 and 2013, including a run of six consecutive wins. As the most successful team in Europe, the Germans set their sights on the World Cup, which they first claimed in 2003 with a dramatic Golden Goal win over Sweden. 

Led by the iconic Birgit Prinz, one of the all-time greatest players in women’s soccer history, Germany went on to defend its title in 2007. The Germans faced Brazil in the 2007 final, and Prinz gave them the lead in the 52nd minute.

Germany doubled its lead with less than five minutes to play, ending the game with a 2-0 win that made it the first nation to win back-to-back Women’s World Cup titles.

Those championships came during an era when the German women’s soccer team enjoyed one of the most dominant stretches by any national team in men’s or women’s history. By the time their run was over, Germany had captured eight European Cup titles and two World Cups.

USWNT (2015 and 2019)

The first USWNT Women’s World Cup championship came in the inaugural 1991 tournament, setting the tone for a country that has consistently reached the event’s final four. In fact, the American women have never finished lower than third place in any of the eight World Cup competitions played so far.

After a bitterly disappointing championship game loss in 2011 that ended with a penalty shootout against Japan, the USWNT returned to the Women’s World Cup in 2015 with a point to prove.

The Americans powered their way back into the final, where they would meet Japan for the second straight tournament. This time, however, the outcome would be very different.

Within the game’s first 15 minutes, the Americans built up a 4-0 lead that included a remarkable hat trick by Carli Lloyd. It was a moment of redemption for Lloyd, who had missed her penalty kick in the shootout four years earlier. The USWNT went on to a 5-2 victory, beating Japan with the most impressive performance in the history of the Women’s World Cup final.  The memory of 2011 faded once the USA was back on top.

Four years later, Megan Rapinoe inspired the Americans’ run through the knockout rounds and led the USWNT on its most impressive World Cup run to date. The U.S. players were electric from start to finish at the competition, reaching the final for the fifth time in their history.

The USWNT defeated the Netherlands 2-0 in the 2019 final to repeat as Women’s World Cup champions. It marked the first time the Americans were able to successfully defend a championship and ensured their legacy as one of the greatest teams of all time.

The Americans’ performance throughout the 2019 tournament might well have been the most impressive run by any Women’s World Cup champion in the event’s history. The team now has an opportunity to embed itself further into the international game’s record books with a potential three-peat in 2023.

Women’s World Cup 2023: USWNT to Win First Ever Three-Peat

The U.S. women had a target on their backs simply by entering the 2023 Women’s World Cup tournament ranked No. 1 in the world. Having enjoyed so much success in the event’s history so far – and already dominating the list of FIFA Women’s World Cup champions – the Americans find themselves in a situation where the 2023 competition is essentially the USA vs. the world.

This year, things look a little tougher than they have in previous tournaments, because the rest of the world now has stronger starting elevens thanks to more support for women’s soccer across the globe. Group-stage draws against the Netherlands and Portugal showed the Americans’ vulnerability and might have made their fans a bit nervous. Despite its bumpy ride, the USWNT reached the knockout rounds, and no team is more experienced in the big moments.

The Americans’ list of women’s World Cup records is outstanding, but a three-peat would mark their single greatest achievement to date.

​​List of past FIFA Men’s World Cup Winners

Brazil tops the leaderboard of past men’s World Cup winners, and the Brazilians’ impressive run as a dominant soccer nation in the 1950s and 1960s, as well as in the 1990s and early 2000s, is quite something.

The 2002 Brazilian World Cup team included star players such as Ronaldo Nazario, Ronaldinho, Rivaldo, Cafu, and Roberto Carlos. It was one of the greatest squads the World Cup has ever seen, and Brazil’s 2-0 final win over Germany marked the fifth time since the inaugural 1930 event that Brazilians went home as champions.

Germany and Italy have each won four World Cup men’s tournaments. Argentina has won three, including Diego Maradona’s momentous “Hand of God” moment in 1986. Argentina also won the most recent World Cup in 2022, beating France in the final and enabling superstar Lionel Messi to claim a championship that secured his legacy among the very greatest players in international soccer history.

France and Uruguay have won two World Cup championships, while England and Spain each have one title.

A review of the history of men’s World Cup winners and their follow-up performances can be found below. There have been 22 competitions to date, and eight different nations have claimed the championship.

1930 Champion: Uruguay
Uruguay’s 1934 Finish: Did not play 

1934 Champion: Italy
Italy’s 1938 Finish: Champions

1938 Champion: Italy
Italy’s 1950 Finish: Group Stage Exit

1950 Champion: Uruguay
Uruguay’s 1954 Finish: Semifinals

1954 Champion: West Germany
West Germany’s 1958 Finish: Semifinals

1958 Champion: Brazil
Brazil’s 1962 Finish: Champions 

1962 Champion: Brazil
Brazil’s 1966 Finish: Group Stage Exit 

1966 Champion: England
England’s 1970 Finish: Quarterfinals 

1970 Champion: Brazil
Brazil’s 1974 Finish: Group Stage Exit 

1974 Champion: West Germany
West Germany’s 1978 Finish: Group Stage Exit 

1978 Champion: Argentina
Argentina’s 1982 Finish: Group Stage Exit 

1982 Champion: Italy
Italy’s 1986 Finish: Round of 16 

1986 Champion: Argentina
Argentina’s 1990 Finish: Runner-up 

1990 Champion: West Germany
Germany’s 1994 Finish: Quarterfinals 

1994 Champion: Brazil
Brazil’s 1998 Finish: Runner-up 

1998 Champion: France
France’s 2002 Finish: Group Stage Exit 

2002 Champion: Brazil
Brazil’s 2006 Finish: Quarterfinals 

2006 Champion: Italy
Italy’s 2010 Finish: Group Stage Exit 

2010 Champion: Spain
Spain’s 2014 Finish: Group Stage Exit 

2014 Champion: Germany
Germany’s 2018 Finish: Group Stage Exit 

2018 Champion: France
France’s 2022 Finish: Runner-up 

2022 Champion: Argentina 

List of past FIFA Women’s World Cup Winners

A list of past Women’s World Cup winners at all tournaments since the inaugural 1991 event can be found below. This list is dominated by the USA, which has played in five of the eight finals and won four of a possible eight competitions.

U.S. soccer fans have grown used to seeing their team succeed, but in 2023 the competition is stronger than ever.

Germany has won two tournaments, and Japan and Norway have one win apiece.

1991 Champion: USA
USA’s 1995 Finish: Third Place

1995 Champion: Norway
Norway’s 1999 Finish: Fourth Place

1999 Champion: USA
USA’s 2003 Finish: Third Place

2003 Champion: Germany
Germany’s 2007 Finish: Champion

2007 Champion: Germany
Germany’s 2011 Finish: Quarterfinals

2011 Champion: Japan
Japan’s 2015 Finish: Runner-Up

2015 Champion: USA
USA’s 2019 Finish: Champion

2019 Champion: USA
USA’s 2023 Finish: TBD

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