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Rulers of the Rankings

No. 1 vs. No. 2.

No, this isn’t the BCS title game and there is no championship at stake, but when the USA and Germany meet in the next two matches of the Fan Tribute Tour, presented by Panasonic, it will be a clash of two countries that have dominated the FIFA Women’s World Rankings for the past 10 years.

The two “friendly matches” on Oct. 20 at Toyota Park – home of Major League Soccer’s Chicago Fire – and Oct. 23 at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Conn., will actually mark a somewhat rare occurrence.

On only eight occasions since the world rankings were instituted for women’s national teams have the top two ranked countries played each other. The USA, who has never dropped below the No. 2 spot, has been involved in all eight games: seven against Germany and one against Norway.

Six of the eight games have come in tournament play, adding an extra edge to those matches, while two were friendlies, one in Germany and one in the USA.

Of the six games in tournament play, one was in a Women’s World Cup quarterfinal (the USA defeated Norway, 1-0, in 2003), one was in an Olympic semifinal (the USA defeated Germany 2-1 in overtime in 2004), three meetings were in the Algarve Cup Final (two won by the USA and one won by Germany in penalty kicks) and one was in the Four Nations Tournament in China, a 0-0 draw.

You may remember the crushing loss to Germany in the semifinal of the 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup, but that game actually didn’t match No. 1 vs. No. 2. When Germany defeated the USA 3-0 in Portland, Ore., Germany was ranked No. 3, Norway was No. 2 and the USA was No. 1. Germany moved to No. 1 in the next rankings after winning the 2003 Women’s World Cup on American soil.

All in all, the USA is 6-0-2 all-time in games pitting the top two teams in the FIFA rankings. The Americans are undefeated (4-0-0) in games when ranked No. 1 but have two wins in four games (2-0-2) when ranked No. 2.

In the 39 rankings that have been released (usually several times a year) since July of 2003, only the USA and Germany have been ranked No. 1. The USA has been No. 1 in 23 rankings while Germany has been No. 1 for 16 rankings.

Norway and Brazil are the only two other countries to have been in the top two spots. Norway was ranked No. 2 for two rankings in July and August of 2003. Brazil was No. 2 in two rankings in March and June of 2009.

Here is the breakdown of the eight USA games featuring No. 1 vs. No. 2, with the top-ranked team listed first in the score:

  • Oct. 1, 2003: USA 1, Norway 0; Foxborough, Mass.; 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup Quarterfinal
  • Aug. 23, 2004: USA 2, Germany 1; Heraklio, Greece; Olympic Semifinal
  • March 15, 2005: Germany 0, USA 1; Faro, Portugal; Algarve Cup Final
  • March 15, 2006: Germany 0, USA 0; Faro, Portugal; Algarve Cup Final (3-4 in PKs)
  • Jan. 26, 2007: Germany 0, USA 0; Guangzhou, China; Four Nations Tournament
  • Oct. 29, 2009: USA 1, Germany 0; Augsburg, Germany; International Friendly
  • March 3, 2010: USA 3, Germany 2; Faro, Portugal; Algarve Cup Final
  • May 22, 2010: USA 4, Germany 0; Cleveland, Ohio; International Friendly