Top 10 Women’s World Cup teams of all time
Eight past Women’s World Cup tournaments have been the stage for many very talented players and some all-time outstanding squads. Ranking the 10 greatest teams in FIFA Women’s World Cup history.
With the 2023 Women’s World Cup now under way, this a good time to look back at some of the great past winners as well as teams that fell just short of winning this tournament. In other words, we’re going to determine the top 10 greatest women’s national teams of all time.
This list includes teams that boasted some of the most famous individual players, squads that displayed some of the best overall team play, and a couple of rosters that truly dominated their Women’s World Cup competition from start to finish.
Be sure to explore the rest of our Women’s World Cup coverage, including the favorite to win Women’s World Cup, Women’s World cup sleepers, odds to win Women’s World Cup and the 10 Best 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup Group Games to Watch.
Women’s World Cup History of Winners
Since the inaugural Women’s World Cup in 1991, four nations that have claimed the prestigious trophy as world champions.
The United States leads that group with four tournament titles. Germany is the only other nation to have won multiple tournaments, while Japan and Norway round out the list of champions with one title apiece.
Germany and the USA are also the only nations in Women’s World Cup history that won back-to-back titles. Germany emerged as tournament champions in both 2003 and 2007 during a decade-plus run as the best team in Europe. The United States Women’s National Team joined Germany as back-to-back winners by claiming the World Cup in both 2015 and 2019.
What is the best female national soccer team of all time?
Germany and the United States boast two of the best women’s national soccer teams of all time, but the Americans deserve overall No. 1 status for having won four of the eight Women’s World Cup tournaments.
In addition, the USWNT has consistently finished among the top three in this tournament and reached five of its eight total championship games. They are the favorite to win the Women’s World Cup again in 2023, as some of the best women’s soccer players in the world have come together to form what might be the strongest squad the Americans have ever had.
Ranking the Top 10 Greatest National Soccer Teams in Women’s World Cup History
- Germany, 2015
Starting Lineup: Angerer, Bartusiak, Maier, Krahn, Laudehr, Leupolz, Goessling, Kemme, Mittag, Sasic, Popp
The 2015 German squad seemed poised to reclaim the World Cup championshipo for its nation, providing one more shot at the title for highly experienced players such as goalkeeper Nadine Angerer and goal-scorers such as Anja Mittag and Celia Sasic.
The German women’s national soccer team came into the 2015 tournament having won their sixth straight European Cup, which was also their eighth in nine years. They had dominated their region for almost two decades.
In the group stage, Germany scored an impressive 15 goals, which included a dominant 10-0 victory over Ivory Coast in the tournament opener. The Germans continued their success by beating both Sweden and France in the knockout stages. Unfortunately, their journey ended in the semifinals with a 2-0 loss to the Americans, who went on to win the World Cup.
Celia Sasic scored six goals to claim the Golden Boot, and Anja Mittag was right behind her with five goals. The 2015 German women’s soccer roster was without a doubt one of history’s best teams that fell short of winning the World Cup trophy.
- USA, 1991
Starting Lineup: Harvey, Overbeck, Hamilton, Higgins, Foudy, Lilly, Fawcett, Heinrichs, Hamm, Akers, Jennings
The 1991 U.S. squad won the first ever tournament in Women’s World Cup history, storming to the final with several emphatic wins along the way.
The Americans beat Sweden 3-2 in the opening game of the group stage before overwhelming Brazil 5-0 and defeating Japan 3-0 to close out group play. In the knockout rounds, they dominated Taiwan with a resounding 7-0 victory and confidently defeated Germany 5-2 in the semifinal to set up an exciting final match against Norway.
The 1991 USWNT featured several players who became iconic figures in women’s soccer history. Striker Michelle Akers scored an impressive 10 goals in the tournament, setting one of the most coveted Women's World Cup records, which she still holds 32 years later. Alongside her were players such as Julie Foudy and Kristine Lilly, who dominated the midfield. Meanwhile, Carin Jennings and Mia Hamm did plenty of damage up front.
The U.S. team beat Norway 2-1 in the final with Akers scoring both of her team’s goals.
- Brazil, 2007
Starting Lineup: Andreia, Elaine, Aline, Tania, Costa, Daniela, Maycon, Ester, Formiga, Marta, Cristiane
The 2007 Brazilian squad was likely the greatest Women’s World Cup team that failed to win a championship.
The legendary Marta was in her prime, and the front three featured the three most capped Brazilian women in soccer history -- Formiga, Marta, and Cristiane. All three were performing at a high level, making 2007 such a promising year for Brazil’s squad.
Brazil scored 10 goals in the group stage without allowing one defensively and then went on to knock out Australia 3-2 in the quarterfinals. That win set up a semifinal against the United States. All eyes were on the eagerly anticipated game between the world’s No. 1-ranked team and the dominant Brazilians.
Marta scored twice, including a moment of solo magic that ended with one of her goals, and Brazil crushed the top-ranked Americans 4-0.
Brazil’s talented 2007 team was the first and only Brazilian squad to reach a Women’s World Cup final, but it fell just short with a 2-0 loss to the European champion German team that was also the defending world champion. This loss has proven to be a tough moment in women’s soccer history, because Marta came so close to winning the World Cup. Her remarkable career still lacks that championship despite how well she has performed as one of the greatest female soccer players of all time.
Although her team did not win the tournament, Marta claimed both the Golden Ball and the Golden Boot after scoring seven goals in her nation’s six games.
- Japan, 2011
Starting Lineup: Kaihori, Kinga, Iwashimizu, Kumagai, Sameshima, Sakaguchi, Ando, Miyama, Kawasumi, Sawa, Ohno
Japan deserves a spot on this top 10 list because of how well it battled back in the 2011 World Cup final alone. The Japanese faced a determined U.S. team that was looking to recapture the World Cup title after disappointing exits in both 2003 and 2007. Despite several dangerous attacks from the USWNT, Japan managed to hold the Americans off the scoreboard through the match’s first 70 minutes.
When it finally fell behind, Japan refused to quit and finally pulled itself back into the game with less than 10 minutes to go. In extra time, the USWNT’s Abby Wambach put her team ahead once again, but Japan still wasn’t done. A well-placed, in-swinging corner kick found Homare Sawa, who guided it past Hope Solo to tie the game again and send it to a penalty shootout.
Japanese goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori made a spectacular trailing leg save against Samantha Boxx on the very first penalty shot, setting the tone and giving Japan an advantage.
The Americans would then miss their next two shots. Wambach scored on the fourth U.S. shot, but by then it was too late. Japan clinched the Women’s World Cup with a 3-1 victory in the shootout.
The 2011 Japanese team took out two of Europe’s best squads on its way to the final, handing losses to both Germany and Sweden before outlasting the mighty USWNT to become the first Asian team to win a World Cup championship.
- USA, 2015
Starting Lineup: Solo, Sauerbrunn, Blaire Krieger, Ertz, Klingenberg, Lloyd, Holiday, Gautrat, Rapinoe, Heath, Morgan
The USWNT was a little slow out of the gate in 2015 compared to its usual standards, as the team scored just four goals in group-stage play. Nevertheless, that was enough to win the group and advance to the knockout rounds. The Americans would soon get their game rolling when it mattered.
They came into the tournament ranked No. 2 in the world, and wins over both Colombia and China set up an eye-popping semifinal game against the top-ranked team, the reigning European champions from Germany.
The Germans had one of the most experienced teams at the 2015 Women’s World Cup, but the Americans took them out with second-half goals from both Carli Lloyd and Kelly O’Hara.
The USWNT advanced to the World Cup final for a second straight year, and this time they came prepared for their rematch with Japan. Lloyd scored a beautiful hat trick that helped to give the Americans a 4-0 lead within the game’s first 15 minutes. The U.S. women went on to win their first World Cup championship in 16 years, making the 2015 showing the most impressive single-game performance by any U.S. women’s team that played a World Cup final.
- Germany, 2003
Starting Lineup: Rottenberg, Stegemann, Minnert, Hingst, Gottschlich, Lingor, Wunderlich, Wiegmann, Garefrekes, Prinz, Meinert
Germany had won three straight European championships heading into the 2003 Women’s World Cup, and the Germans felt it was their time to move beyond Europe and dominate the world soccer as well.
In the group stage, they came back from a 1-0 deficit in their tournament opener against Canada to win 4-1. That was followed by a 3-0 victory against Japan and a 6-1 win over Argentina.
Germany continued to assert its dominance in the knockout rounds, beating Russia 7-1 with an outstanding quarterfinal performance. The Germans would then go on to defeat the USWNT in the semifinals, holding on to 1-0 lead for most of the game before two stoppage-time goals sealed their win and put them in the final.
The 2003 Women’s World Cup final pitted Germany against Sweden, an impressive European team in its own right. The game was tied 1-1 after 90 minutes, and Germany eventually claimed the World Cup with a Golden Goal header from Nia Kunzer.
The 2003 German squad played some tremendous overall team soccer -- shutting down opposition attacks and scoring plenty of goals. Birgit Prinz won both the Golden Ball and the Golden Boot on the strength of her seven goals in the tournament, three of which came in the knockout rounds.
- Norway, 1995
Starting Lineup: Nordby, Svensson, Espeseth, N. Nymark Andersen, Myklebust, A. Nymark Andersen, Riise, Haugen, Medalen, Aarønes, Pettersen
Norway's performance at the 1995 Women’s World Cup tournament qualifies that group of Norwegians as one of the best teams in FIFA Women’s World Cup history. You only need to look as far as the group stage to see how good Norway was. The team scored 17 goals in three games, winning 8-0 over Nigeria, 2-0 over England, and 7-0 over Canada.
Things got a little more challenging in the knockout rounds, but Norway got past Denmark and then eliminated the defending champion Americans 1-0 in a closely contested semifinal match.
The Norwegian women completed their World Cup mission with a 2-0 win over Germany in the final. This was one of the best total-team World Cup performances by any nation in the history of the competition.
Midfielder Hege Riise won the Golden Ball for dominating the tournament, and two of her teammates were the silver and bronze winners -- defender Gro Espeseth and striker Ann Kristin Aarones.
Aarones claimed the Golden Boot with six goals, while Riise came in second with five.
- USA, 1999
Starting Lineup: Scurry, Overbeck, Fawcett, Markgraf, Chastain, Akers, Foudy, Parlow Cone, Hamm, Lilly, Milbrett
The pressure on the U.S. women’s team in 1999 was immense. The United States was hosting the Women’s World Cup for the first time, bringing more American attention than ever before -- not just to this tournament, but to women’s soccer itself.
The USWNT players put tremendous pressure on themselves in every World Cup, expecting to emerge as champions each year. In 1999, they were looking to make it to the final at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., where they could expect a sellout crowd.
The U.S. got off to a hot start and surged through its group stage with comfortable wins over Denmark, Nigeria, and North Korea -- scoring 13 goals in the process. Stars such as Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly, and Julie Foudy led the charge -- driving the Americans into the knockout rounds.
Their journey to the final was anything but easy. The Americans had to overcome the European champions from Germany in the quarterfinals before facing Brazil in the semifinals. They put away the Brazilians 2-0 behind goals from Cynthia Parlow Cone and Michelle Akers.
The final was one of the most intense games in the USNWT’s history. The Americans faced a stubborn Chinese team that might have stolen the win had it not been for a goal-line clearance by Lilly.
The game went to a penalty shootout, where Brandi Chastain came through with the deciding goal after all four of the U.S. shooters ahead of her had also scored.
Celebrations erupted in the stadium. The 1999 U.S. victory did wonders in terms of developing a generation of women’s soccer fans and inspiring young American girls to take up the sport. Of the four USWNT World Cup wins, this one was likely the most important in terms of how it helped grow the women’s game.
- Germany, 2007
Starting Lineup: Angerer, Stegemann, Krahn, Hingst, Bresonik, Behringer, Lingor, Laudehr, Garefrekes, Smisek, Prinz
When a team is the defending World Cup champion and has also won four consecutive European Cup championships, it has a target on its back. Heading into the 2007 Women’s World Cup tournament, the German squad was very much aware of that target and gladly welcomed the challenge.
How does a powerhouse team make a statement against others who believe they can dethrone it? One way for a team to make that statement is by winning its opening game 11-0, which is what the Germans did. That first game set the tone, and Germany remained confident and composed throughout the remainder of the tournament.
Germany’s 2007 team was one of the most experienced World Cup squads any soccer fan will ever see. The roster featured numerous international veterans, including Birgit Prinz, Kerstin Stegemann, Ariana Hingst, and Renate Lingor.
During the knockout rounds, Germany sent North Korea packing in the quarterfinals before taking out the host Norwegians with a 3-0 win in the semis. The 2007 final was one of the most eagerly anticipated matches in women’s World Cup history, as the mighty German champions met a talented Brazilian squad led by the legendary Marta.
Germany’s excellence that year is the only reason Marta has yet to win the World Cup. Her 2007 Brazilian team was the best she ever played on during her career. Brazil was exceptional, but Germany was even better.
With their victory over Brazil, the Germans became the first team to win back-to-back Women’s World Cups -- a feat that would be replicated by the USWNT 14 years later.
- USA, 2019
Starting Lineup: Naeher, Sauerbrunn, O’Hara, Dahlkemper, Dunn, Mewis, Ertz, Lavelle, Morgan, Rapinoe, Heath
The USWNT just keeps on getting better, and it's fair to say that its 2019 roster might have been the best U.S. women’s soccer team of all time.
By 2019, the Women’s World Cup was bigger than ever, and every team outside of the United States was getting better, too. In the 28 years since its inaugural 1991 event, the tournament’s format had gone from 12 teams to 16 teams and by 2019 it had 24 teams. The competition was tougher, but the United States remained ahead of the curve and dominated once again.
The Americans added to their Women’s World Cup records by scoring 18 goals in the group stage, beating Norway's previous record of 17 at the 1995 tournament. The USNWT also refused to concede a single goal in group play.
A 13-0 opening win over Thailand set the tone for the Americans, just as an 11-0 rout of Argentina had done for the German squad that coasted to the 2007 World Cup title.
In the knockout rounds, the U.S. took down Spain, France, and England to reach the final with a chance to defend its title. After eliminating some of Europe’s best teams, the Americans went up against the reigning European champion Netherlands squad in the World Cup final.
Megan Rapinoe’s penalty kick just past the 60-minute mark gave the USNWT a 1-0 lead. Rose Lavelle doubled the U.S. lead eight minutes later, sealing the victory.
The 2019 USWNT’s talent level was tremendous, featuring two of the most famous women’s soccer players in Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe. In fact, Rapinoe had such a good run throughout 2019 and was so impressive in the knockout stages of the World Cup that she ended her year by winning the Ballon d’Or Feminin.
Rapinoe was the 2019 tournament’s Golden Ball and Golden Boot winner with six goals. Morgan finished right behind her with five goals, and Rose Lavelle took bronze in the Golden Ball rankings as the Americans completed yet another outstanding World Cup run.
Related: Check out the 10 greatest soccer games in Women's World Cup history.
Parameters for rankings
This list of the greatest women’s national soccer teams of all time has been ranked based on the level of dominance of each team as well as the degree of competition they encountered in their respective Women’s World Cup tournaments. Overall strength of squad as well as quality of competition has been factored in, along with each team's game-by-game performance over the course of its run.
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