VANCOUVER (Reuters) - The United States ushered in a new era of dominance with their Women's World Cup triumph on Sunday, a victory that will do plenty to bring an already passionate American interest in the sport to unprecedented levels.
By crushing Japan 5-2 on Sunday, the United States not only captured a title that has eluded them for 16 years but also avenged their 2011 final defeat against the same opponents.
The U.S., who also won the gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics, are now the only country with three women's World Cup titles to their name, having previously won in 1991 and 1999.
Their support throughout the tournament was clear as they played in front of pro-American crowds the whole way, including Sunday's final in Vancouver where thousands had made the short trip across the border.
While household names like Abby Wambach and Hope Solo stole the American spotlight going into the tournament, it was Carli Lloyd who will be remembered most in the minds of both seasoned and budding U.S. soccer fans.
The 32-year-old midfielder capped a brilliant tournament with a sensational hat-trick inside the opening 16 minutes of the final before collecting the 'Golden Ball' award as the World Cup's best player.
Lloyd's efforts in Canada will likely go a long way in drawing further interest in the sport at home, where success in the women's game is regarded with nearly as much gravity as the men’s side.
The timing of the women's triumph could not have been any better as it came a year after the men's team reached the last 16 at the World Cup in Brazil, which was one of the most watched events in the United States.
With the sport's top two prizes now in their possession, the American women will have targets on their backs heading into the 2016 Rio Olympics and the 2019 Word Cup in France.
Writing by Frank Pingue; Editing by Ian Ransom