The United States' loss to Japan in the Women's World Cup final Sunday is one of the most disappointing and heartbreaking losses in U.S. team sports history. We rank the most disappointing American team losses in international competition.
1. 1972 Olympic basketball
This one tops the list because the United States appeared to have won this gold-medal game. Twice. We wuz robbed. Inexplicably, officials twice added time until the Soviets finally hit a buzzer-beater to upset the Americans by a point. The United States was 63-0 in Olympic basketball before this game and had won all seven Olympic tournaments. To this day, the 1972 Olympic team, which starred Doug Collins and Bobby Jones, has refused to accept its silver medals.
2. 2011 Women's World Cup
It felt as if the Americans and goalkeeper Hope Solo, above, were on the team of destiny after slipping past Brazil in the quarterfinals, but the soccer gods were smiling on Japan. With a story line eerily similar to the Saints winning the Super Bowl after Hurricane Katrina, the Japanese gave a nation still recovering from a devastating earthquake a reason to celebrate. But it came at the expense of an American team that was left heartbroken after blowing two one-goal leads and losing on penalty kicks.
3. 2008 Olympic softball
This goes down as one of the biggest upsets in Olympic history. Japan beat the United States 3-1 in the gold-medal game, an especially stinging loss because this was the last Olympic softball game. The International Olympic Committee eliminated softball because the Americans — including Jennie Finch, left, and Caitlin Lowe — had been too dominant, having won the previous three Olympic tournaments.
4. 1998 Olympic hockey
The most embarrassing loss in American history. Just two years removed from upsetting Canada to win the World Cup of Hockey, the Americans won only one game and were bounced in the quarterfinals by Dominik Hasek and the Czechs 4-1. Not only did Team USA lose on the ice, it was a disgrace off it, busting up hotel rooms and disturbing other Olympic athletes in what is the low point in American hockey.
Other top contenders
5. 2000 Olympic 4x100 freestyle swim: The United States had never lost this event in the Olympics and didn't figure to lose in Sydney with Neil Walker, Anthony Ervin, Gary Hall Jr. and Jason Lezak. In fact, Hall said his team would smash the host Aussie team like guitars. But Australia's Ian Thorpe jumped out of the pool and played an air guitar to mock Hall after the Aussies stunned the Americans by 19/100ths of a second.
6. 2004 Olympic basketball: In the previous 14 Olympic tournaments, the U.S. men had won 12 golds and all three tournaments with pro players. With young stars such as Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James as well as veterans such as Tim Duncan and Allen Iverson, the Americans looked to be shoo-ins for another gold. After losing only twice in all the previous tournaments, the Americans lost three times in Greece, including an 89-81 shocker in the semifinals to Argentina.
7. 2004 Ryder Cup: The Americans were at home (Oakland Hills in Michigan) and had a Murders' Row of players such as Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Davis Love and Jim Furyk. Yet the Europeans crushed the United States, 18½ to 9½ — the Americans' worst loss since the Ryder Cup started in 1927. Worst of all, U.S. nemesis Colin Montgomerie drained the winning putt, setting up a champagne shower on American soil.
8. 2010 Olympic hockey: The United States wasn't supposed to beat Canada, especially in Vancouver, but that doesn't make the gold-medal loss hurt any less. The Americans, who beat Canada earlier in the tournament, tied the score with 25 seconds left but lost when goalie Ryan Miller gave up an overtime goal to Sidney Crosby. Ouch.