It seems that every four years soccer suddenly captivates the United States, where the sport isn't necessarily as popular as it is in other countries. This year was no different, as the women's U.S. team looked poised to capture the country's first World Cup title since 1999.
As the World Cup final progressed on Sunday, the United States seemed to dominate play, making a championship win seem like a foregone conclusion.
A goal in the 68th minute put the U.S. on top, but the resilient Japan team stormed back to net an equalizer with 10 minutes remaining in regulation.
But even as the game extended into extra time, the U.S. appeared to still be in control and looked like the better team. So when Abby Wambach put a header past Japan's goalkeeper during extra time to put the U.S. up 2-1, it seemed to all but seal the deal.
But again, Japan responded, netting another equalizer roughly 13 minutes later, when Homare Sawa flicked in a corner kick.
Still, despite the U.S. blowing two leads, heading into penalty kicks likely reminded most fans of what happened during the 1999 World Cup final, when the U.S. prevailed over China in Pasadena, Calif.
This time, it just wasn't meant to be, though, as the U.S. couldn't convert on its first three penalty kicks and Japan prevailed.
It was stunning to see the U.S. lose in the final, but even more stunning given the way in which the team lost.
Whether or not you consider the loss to be the result of a "choke," or the result of Japan being the better team, one thing is certain: It's now going to be a long four years before the squad has a chance to redeem itself.