USWNT looks to be first to win three straight World Cups. Here are sports' other three-peats

The United States Women's National Team will look to become the first team in soccer history to win three straight World Cups

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It's as easy as one-two-three. Right?

Not when it comes to winning World Cups. 

No team, men's or women's, has ever won three consecutive tournaments, making the World Cup three-peat one of sports' most elusive championship pinnacles.

But the United States Women's National Team is already two-thirds of the way there, having won the 2015 and 2019 World Cups. Their quest to enter the history books as the first team to capture a third straight will begin July 21 when they play Vietnam in their first match of the 2023 World Cup.    

“Knowing that it’s not something that anybody has done before,” veteran forward Megan Rapinoe said, “you always want to be the first to do something.”

The U.S. has won four of the eight World Cups since the women's tournament began in 1991, but it's Germany that has come closest to three-peating. After winning the Cup in 2003 and 2007, the Germans had a chance to make history on their home turf as host of the 2011 tournament. They were among the favorites entering the knockout stage before being stunned by Japan in the quarterfinals.

Japan went on to win the World Cup, upsetting the U.S. in a final that was decided on penalty kicks. Three players from that U.S. team remain on the current roster: Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and Kelley O'Hara, all of whom were making their World Cup debut in 2011 and suffered, to this point, their only disappointment.

They were there in 2015 when the U.S. avenged the loss by defeating Japan 5-2 in the World Cup final.

They were there in 2019 when the U.S. repeated for the first time by defeating the Netherlands 2-0 in the final.    

And now they are back, looking to join Pele as the only other players in the history of the sport to be on three World Cup winning teams. But not even Pele did so in three consecutive tournaments.  

“Me, Kelley and Alex have a special little cherry that we're going for,” Rapinoe said.  

Unlike other sports, where three-peats obviously take place over a three-year span, a team winning three consecutive World Cups demands a decade of sustained excellence. There is no free agency, draft or trade-deadline deals that bolster a contending team.

There is a domestic talent pipeline that bridges generations and enables a team to reload rather than rebuild.  

Legends like Carli Lloyd finish one chapter, newcomers like Sophia Smith start the next. The pages seamlessly turn, the history continues to be written.    

While the USWNT features nine players who have won at least one World Cup, there are 14 newcomers set to fill the voids left by players like Lloyd, one of the team’s most accomplished players who retired in 2021, and captain Becky Sauerbrunn, a two-time Cup winner who will miss this year’s tournament with a foot injury.

One of those is Smith, a 22-year-old forward set to make her World Cup debut. After being left off the roster for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, in which the U.S. took bronze, Smith went on to be named 2022 NWSL Most Valuable Player and U.S. Soccer's Player of the Year. She will be joined by first-timers like Alana Cook, Naomi Girma, Trinity Rodman, Lynn Williams and others who will help write this chapter and the next for the USWNT. 

"I'm not worried about the inexperience,” USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski said Tuesday. “In fact I'm excited about the energy and the enthusiasm that the young players bring, the intensity and the drive, as well. So, I'm very excited about that group and actually I think it will be one of our advantages."  

The team’s blend of youthful ambition and veteran pedigree could help the USWNT become the first team to reach the top of the podium in three straight World Cups.    

"It's iconic in sports," Rapinoe said of the three-peat. "It's incredibly difficult to do. It's incredibly difficult to win one." 

But the U.S. might make it look as easy as one-two-three.

How many teams have won back-to-back World Cups?

The USWNT lifts the trophy after defeating the Netherlands to win the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup in France. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Four teams – two in the men’s tournament and two in the women’s tournament – have won consecutive World Cups.

Italy was the first to do so in the men’s tournament in 1934 and 1938. With the World Cup being canceled in 1942 and 1946 due to World War II, the team did not get an attempt to three-peat until the 1950 World Cup but was eliminated in group play. 

Brazil won back-to-back World Cups in 1958 and 1962 but was denied a third straight after failing to qualify for the knockout stage in 1966. 

The first women’s team to repeat as World Cup champion was Germany after winning in 2003 and 2007. Germany was the first team in the sport to reach the knockout stage with a chance of winning a third straight tournament, but they were upset in the quarterfinals by eventual champion Japan.

The United States Women’s National Team won the last two World Cups in 2015 and 2019 and will look to become the first team to complete a three-peat.   

How many teams in sports have had a three-peat?

The New York Yankees celebrates winning their third straight World Series after defeating the New York Mets in 2000. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/ALLSPORT)

The most recent three-peat in American professional sports was achieved by Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal and the Los Angeles Lakers, who won NBA championships in 2000, 2001 and 2002.

Michael Jordan led the Chicago Bulls to a repeat three-peat, winning three straight titles from 1991 to 1993 and then again from 1996 to 1998. The Boston Celtics won eight straight championships from 1959 to 1966.  

In the NFL, no team in the Super Bowl era has three-peated … technically. The Green Bay Packers won the last NFL Championship game in 1965 and the first two Super Bowls in 1966 and 1967. 

MLB has had four three-peats. Three of them have been by the New York Yankees, with the most recent being from 1998 to 2000. The only other baseball team to win three straight World Series? The Oakland Athletics from 1972 to 1974. 

Three teams have three-peated in the NHL, with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens each doing so twice. The only U.S. team to three-peat is the New York Islanders, who won four consecutive Stanley Cups from 1980 to 1984. 

In college sports, Georgia has a chance this upcoming season to become the first Division I football program to three-peat in over 80 years. 

Here’s a look at three-peats in team sports:  


Green Bay Packers: 1929-1931, 1965-1967


Boston Celtics: 1959-1966

Chicago Bulls: 1991-1993, 1996-1998

Los Angeles Lakers: 1952-1954, 2000-2002


Houston Comets: 1997-2000


New York Yankees: 1936-1939, 1949-1953, 1998-2000

Oakland Athletics: 1972-1974


Toronto Maple Leafs: 1947-1949, 1962-1964

Montreal Canadiens: 1956-1960, 1976-1979

New York Islanders: 1980-1984

Men’s college basketball

UCLA: 1967-1973

Women’s college basketball 

Connecticut: 2002-2004, 2013-2016

Tennessee: 1996-1998

College football (not including co-champs)

Yale football: 1886-1888

Minnesota football: 1934-1936

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