USA coach Jill Ellis is anticipating this summer's 2019 Women's World Cup to be the toughest yet, as the USWNT attempts to defend its 2015 title with the likes of Germany, England, France, Canada, Japan and others all posing serious threats.
Despite winning a record three titles since the World Cup was launched in 1991, the United States are still yet to win back-to-back trophies, although Ellis is focused on a 'new journey' rather than pulling off a successful repeat.
"Back in 2015 I said that that would be the hardest World Cup to win because obviously the number of teams entering grew," Ellis told FIFA.com this weeks as the tournament nears.
"But now I would say that this will be the hardest World Cup to win because the number of quality teams, teams that are growing the game, the personalities of the players - our game is growing and growing. I think people feel that and I think it's going to be an amazingly competitive World Cup with a lot of memorable moments," the English-born coach added.
USWNT were beaten to this year's SheBelieves Cup title by England last month. Despite an ability to score goals, certain defensive weaknesses appeared to be exposed after consecutive 2-2 draws against Japan and England that ultimately cost them first place in the standings.
"I got a lot of answers from the tournament in terms of personnel, things that we are doing very well and things that we need to make sure we focus on and fine tune," Ellis said.
She also explained that winning back-to-back World Cups for the first time - matching Germany (2003, 2007) as the only country to do so - is not a motivating factor ahead of the World Cup.
Things have changed since 2015 - Abby Wambach, Hope Solo, Christie Rampone and Heather O'Reilly have retired, while a 36-year-old Carli Lloyd is no longer a regular starter. Alex Morgan and Julie Ertz have since stepped into senior roles, while there are also several fresh talents.
"I don't think about whether it's a back-to-back or whether we're defending a World Cup. Everything is about what's in front of us. This is a different team in terms of personalities, players, system; there's so many differences that it's a new journey for us," Ellis declared.
The USWNT will play World Cup warm up matches against South Africa, New Zealand and Mexico on home soil in May and will begin their tournament against Thailand on June 11.