This is it. 50 games of group stages and knockout rounds to reach the pinnacle: the Women's World Cup final, in Lyon on Sunday evening. 

In the red, white and blue corner, looking to go back-to-back for the first time, are the USWNT. In the orange, the Netherlands, in their second ever World Cup, having never even reached a quarter-final before. 

No second chances, this is win or bust for both teams. That's the story. But there's a couple of little sidelines to keep an eye on, too...

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The Golden Boot Race


Does the Golden Boot matter as much as the World Cup trophy? Well no, that's why this is a subplot and not a plot. But if you're saying that the team who celebrated their 13th goal against Thailand like it was their first aren't a little bit interested in individual glory, well...

A lot will depend on if (and how many) Ellen White scores against Sweden on Saturday. If she doesn't, it's a straight shootout between Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe – on six and five goals respectively, with three assists apiece and Rapinoe playing fewer minutes than her teammate. 

If they score the same number of goals, Morgan wins. If Rapinoe scores more (and the assists tallies don't change), she wins. Simple. 

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Experience vs Fearlessness


If this isn't the USWNT's last hurrah with their current group of living legends, it's not far off. 12 of their 23 are aged 30 or older, including more than half of their assumed starters. This is one of the most experienced groups of winners that's ever existed in the women's game – eight of them with over 100 caps, too – and this is the last time they'll all be together at a World Cup. 

On the other hand, the Netherlands squad contains only one player out of their 20s, and the country had only won one Women's World Cup game in their entire history before this summer (1-0 over New Zealand in their debut appearance four years ago). 

The Netherlands have been utterly fearless, untainted by any history and forging their own path through the tournament. Sherida Spitse leads the competition with four assists, and 22-year-old (!) record scorer Vivianne Miedema has shone. Youth vs Experience. Here we go. 

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Boring, Boring US


Jill Ellis has a gameplan for the knockout rounds, and it's this: set up with an attacking 4-3-3, score early, drop immediately to a 5-4-1 until/unless you concede, repeat. 

They've beaten Spain, France and England 2-1 without really dominating any of the games – England, in particular, came within an Ellen White toenail/Steph Houghton penalty of taking them to extra time. 

So...what? In the final, in the biggest match of the tournament, does the caution suddenly go away, and do the US finally open up and play the attacking brand of football they keep promising? 

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The Women's Super League has been a proving ground for a heap of Dutch footballers over the last half a dozen years, with Sari van Veenendaal, Danielle van de Donk and Vivianne Miedema all performing out of their skins for Arsenal over the last few seasons. Miedema in particular broke all the league's goalscoring records this last campaign. 

Across the pond, the US squad all play in the NWSL. Every single one. One proving ground vs another. Bring it on.

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Passing of the Torch

The USWNT have been the powerhouse in women's international football. They've never finished outside the top three in the World Cup – and a lot of that's been down to the funding and attention given to the women's game in the US. 


US Soccer aren't holding that back, but other nations, especially European nations, have upped their game. The WSL has become fully professionalised in this World Cup cycle, Lyon are dominant across Europe, and sponsorships are popping up for new teams and leagues all the time. 

This World Cup has seen the landscape of the women's game shift towards Europe. Sunday could – could – see the torch passed. 

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So...That White House Invitation...

The USWNT have been tweet-invited to the White House after the tournament, whether they win or lose. It's vaguely traditional for winning American teams to be invited en masse to DC, but a couple of the squad's members have already come out to say they won't take up any invitation. 


Megan Rapinoe's comments have made the most headlines, but she's been supported by other senior members of the squad – Ali Krieger saying: "I thought it was really important for me to not make her feel like she has to process this all alone. A lot of us have similar feelings, so I thought it was important to show support. It's tough to be silent, because you feel like you're complicit. I don't want to be that anymore."

Get ready for a little Twitter sideshow.