The 10 most successful countries in Women's World Cup history
Every four years, more than 1 billion viewers gather in living rooms and barrooms around the world to watch the Women's World Cup.
While soccer, or "football," has been played in various forms for centuries around the world, its official inception was in England in 1863—although it had primarily been a man's sport. It wasn't until the 1970s that restrictions on women playing the sport began to loosen worldwide. The first official FIFA Women's World Cup took place in 1991 in China.
OddsSeeker looked back at the eight tournaments over 32 years and compiled a list of the 10 most prosperous countries in Women's World Cup history. Countries were ranked based on their highest finish in the tournament and how many times they achieved that rank. Ties were broken by looking at the next highest finish for each country.
The results show the U.S. Women's National Soccer team dominated by bringing home four of the eight world titles and placing either second or third in the other tournaments. European countries comprise six of 10 nations on the list, while Brazil is the only team representing South America. This year, 32 nations will take the field in the host countries of New Zealand and Australia.
The US Women's National team has won the last two World Cups
The U.S. Women's National Soccer team won the last two FIFA Women's World Cups in 2015 and 2019, and are set to defend their title in 2023. Will the U.S. team complete a World Cup Champion hat trick, or will 2023 be the year that Sweden or Brazil finally bring home the title?
The following 10 teams have historically made the quarterfinals.
Alex Caparros - FIFA/FIFA // Getty Images
- One-time fourth-place finish (2011)- Two-time quarterfinalist (2015, 2019)- One-time group round finish (2003)
Coming in at #10 on the list is France, whose women's team best finish was fourth in the 2011 Women's World Cup. The following year, Les Bleues, as the team is known, also achieved fourth place in the Women's Olympic Football Tournament during the summer games.
This year the French National Team could have a hard time placing in the quarterfinals again since their head coach, Corinne Diacre, was fired in March after multiple star players refused to play in the World Cup under her leadership.
Maddie Meyer - FIFA/FIFA // Getty Images
- One-time third-place finish (2015)- One-time fourth-place finish (2019)- Three-time quarterfinalist (1995, 2007, 2011)
The Lionesses, England's National Team, have placed better in the last two tournaments than ever before. In the 2019 World Cup, England was knocked out in a close game against Sweden, finishing the match at 2-1.
Fans can never count England out of the running. As the champions of the 2022 UEFA Women's Euro Championship, the country fields a team this year that could take them to the final.
FRANCK FIFE/AFP // Getty Images
- One-time World Cup runner-up (2019)- One-time round-of-16 finish (2015)
The Netherlands' runner-up achievement places them just ahead of England and France. In the 2019 Women's World Cup final game, the Dutch team lost momentum when the U.S. scored a penalty kick in the second half. The Netherlands became runner-up when the U.S. ended the game with a 2-0 win.
Now down one of their best strikers, Vivianne Miedema, due to an injury, the Netherlands will have a challenge getting to the finals again this year.
Jed Jacobsohn/Allsport // Getty Images
#7. China PR
- One-time World Cup runner-up (1999)- One-time fourth-place finish (1995)- Four-time quarterfinalist (1991, 2003, 2007, 2015)
The People's Republic of China National Women's Football Team almost made the semifinals in 1995 but lost to Germany on a goal scored in the last two minutes of the match.
One of the most memorable matches in the Women's World Cup history, the 1999 final match saw China PR lose the championship by just one penalty kick to the United States. After that, China's fans nicknamed them Steel Roses, which they continue to use today. The Steel Roses are coming into this year's World Cup on the right foot, having won the 2022 Women's Asian Cup.
FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP // Getty Images
- One-time World Cup runner-up (2007)- One-time third-place finish (1999)- Two-time quarterfinalist (2003, 2011)
Home to some of the greatest players of all time, including the legendary Pelé, Brazil has consistently proven itself on the national stage—and their National Women's Team is no exception.
Their one-time third-place finish in 1999 has positioned them just ahead of China PR on this list. They sealed their third-place finish in a close match against Norway in which neither team scored during the 90-minute game and extra time. The match came down to penalty kicks, and Brazil won.
In 2007 Brazil met with Germany, the defending champions, in the final match of the Women's World Cup. Although Brazil lost 2-0, this was the first time a South American team made it to the FIFA Women's World Cup finals.
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- One-time World Cup runner-up (2003)- Three-time third-place finish (1991, 2011, 2019)- Two-time quarterfinalist (1995, 1999)
Sweden's National Team has made it to the semifinals four of the eight Women's World Cup tournaments. The team of 1995 and 1999 made it to the quarterfinals, losing to China PR and Norway, respectively.
They came close to making it to the final match in 1991, 2011, and 2019 but placed third instead. However, the Swedish team placed best in the 2003 Women's World Cup final against Germany. Although Sweden started strong with a 1-0 lead, Germany eventually clinched the win after an incredible header from a corner kick leaving Sweden in second place.
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- One-time World Cup Champion (2011)- One-time World Cup runner-up (2015)- One-time quarter-finalist (1995)
Coming in at #4 is Japan, one of only four National Women's Teams to hold the title of World Champion. The team finished as a quarterfinalist in 1995,but their real success didn't start until 2011. Japan defeated the reigning U.S. champions in a penalty shootout, thanks to an extra-time equalizer by Japan's captain, Homare Sawa.
This win was not only momentous because it was the first time an Asian country had won the Women's World Cup—Japan had also just suffered a devastating earthquake and tsunami that killed thousands and left the country in heartbreak. Japan's win in the 2011 World Cup brought comfort to a healing nation. Japanese goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori later said in an interview, "We played that tournament not only for ourselves. We felt we had not only the support of Japan, but also the whole world."
The next Women's World Cup in 2015 saw Japan and the U.S. again in the final. Japan could not retain their title, and the U.S. defeated them in a 5-2 match.
FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP // Getty Images
- One-time World Cup Champion (1995)- One-time World Cup runner-up (1991)- Two-time fourth-place finish (1999, 2007)
Norway's National Women's Team, nicknamed The Grasshoppers, ranks just above Japan because of their two-time fourth-place finish in 1999 and 2007. The Scandinavian team saw most of their success in the early '90s. In 1991 they secured their place in the final match against the United States. Even though Norway commanded the second half of the match, the U.S. took the lead by scoring the winning goal in the game's last two minutes.
In 1995 the Norwegian team again made it to the final match, this time facing the formidable German squad. In the pouring rain, Norway got off to an incredible start and ended the first half with a 2-0 lead over Germany. The momentum from the first half propelled Norway's defense, which held Germany scoreless. Norway won their first Women's World Cup in 1995.
FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP // Getty Images
- Two-time World Cup Champion (2003, 2007)- One-time World Cup runner-up (1995)- Two-time fourth-place finish (1991, 2015)
The German Women's Team earns their spot at #2 on the list with an impressive track record at the World Cup games. They have placed fourth or better in seven of the eight tournaments in Women's World Cup history.
In 1991 and 2015, the team managed fourth place in the tournament. In 1995 they played a tough game against Norway in the final match but walked away that year as runner-up. They are two-time World Cup Champions from 2003 and 2007. In 2003, defender Nia Künzer's infamous Golden Goal in the game's last minutes, an incredible header off a corner kick, sealed Germany's win in the Women's World Cup.
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- Four-time World Cup Champion (1991, 1999, 2015, 2019)- One-time World Cup runner-up (2011)- Three-time third-place finish (1995, 2003, 2007)
The USWNT could be called a title hoarder for how well they have performed in Women's World Cup history. The team won the first official FIFA Women's World Cup in 1991 against Norway. They won their second World Cup title on home soil as 90,000 fans cheered them on in Pasadena, California, against China PR.
The U.S. will be stepping onto the field this year not only as the reigning champions from 2015 and 2019 but ranked as the top women's national team in the world, a position they have held since 2017.
Story editing by Jeff Smith. Copy editing by Kristen Wegrzyn. Photo selection by Lacy Kerrick.