The last time the United States won the Women's World Cup, Mia Hamm and Julie Foudy were still playing, Abby Wambach had just led Florida to the NCAA title and Alex Morgan was all of 10.
That 1999 title is so far in the distance, in fact, that captain Christie Rampone is the only current U.S. player who was part of the watershed tournament.
"It's been way too long -- 12 years -- since we brought home that trophy," goalkeeper Hope Solo said. "Twelve years is a long time."
Ending that drought is the Americans' sole objective at the Women's World Cup, which begins Sunday and runs through July 17 in nine cities across Germany. One of the four top seeds, the U.S. opens group play Tuesday against North Korea in Dresden, then faces Colombia on July 2 in Sinsheim, and Sweden on July 6 in Wolfsburg.
Two-time defending champion Germany and Brazil, silver medalist at the last two Olympics and runner-up at the 2007 World Cup, are also top seeds, as is Japan.
"Everyone has the final game on our minds, and winning it," Wambach said. "But we can't skip any steps to get there."
Despite coming up short at the last two World Cups, the Americans haven't exactly been in a slump. They've won the last two Olympic gold medals, and begin the World Cup as the No. 1 team in the world. They have the world's best goalkeeper in Solo, and one of the best goal-scorers in Wambach.
Yet the Americans aren't the juggernaut they once were.
Part of that is a credit to other countries, many of whom are seeing the results of the additional resources they poured into their programs over the last decade. But the U.S. has also been uncharacteristically inconsistent as of late, particularly over the last year.
After going more than two years without a loss, the U.S. dropped three games in five months. The Americans were stunned in the semifinals of regional World Cup qualifying by Mexico, a team that had been 0-24-1 against its northern neighbor. The U.S. had to win a home-and-home playoff with Italy just to get to Germany.