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Future bright for U.S.

The Women's World Cup loss was tough, but there were signs of good things to come.

Hope Solo and the rest of the U.S. Women's World Cup team returned home Monday. (Craig Ruttle/AP)
Hope Solo and the rest of the U.S. Women's World Cup team returned home Monday. (Craig Ruttle/AP)Read more

FRANKFURT, Germany - Once the Americans get over the disappointment of coming up just short at the Women's World Cup, they will find plenty of reasons for optimism.

The U.S. team pulled together amid a series of challenges that, just a few years ago, would have broken it apart. And while the illustrious careers of captain Christie Rampone, Shannon Boxx and maybe Abby Wambach are nearing their end, Lauren Cheney, Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe proved in Germany they are more than able successors.

There's also another major title to be won at next summer's London Olympics, and qualifying starts in just a few months.

"It's just unfortunate, just a bummer," Delran's Carli Lloyd said after Sunday's loss to Japan. "But there's another World Cup in four years."

For some. The majority of the team will remain intact through the London Olympics, but the 36-year-old Rampone and 34-year-old Boxx are likely to call it quits after that. Wambach said it's too early to say what she'll do, but she is 31, and her body is showing the wear and tear from the fearless playing style that has earned her third place on the all-time World Cup scoring list with 13 goals.

Hope Solo, winner of the Golden Glove as the tournament's top goalkeeper, is in the prime of her career at 29. Morgan and Cheney, both just 22, each finished the tournament with two goals. Rapinoe displayed the accuracy and touch on the flanks so critical in coach Pia Sundhage's desire for a possession-based offense.

No team found a way to contain speedy Heather O'Reilly, and Lloyd seemed to gain confidence in directing the offense as the tournament wore on, having one of her best games against Japan.

Huge TV ratings

Sunday's game, televised on ESPN, earned the highest television rating for any soccer game on the network, with a 7.4 fast national rating an average of almost 13.5 million viewers. The previous high was a 4.0 for last year's U.S.-Algeria men's World Cup match. The record is still the 1999 Women's World Cup final, which had an 11.4 rating. . . . The final also set the record for tweets per second (7,196), eclipsing the wedding of Prince William and Kate and the death of Osama bin Laden.