The team played its first match at the Mundialito tournament on August 18, 1985, coached by Mike Ryan, in which they lost 1–0 to .
The U.S. team's first major victory came at the 1991 World Championship (retroactively named the 1991 Women's World Cup). The U.S. cruised to lopsided victories in the quarterfinals and semifinals, before defeating Norway 2–1 in the final. Michelle Akers was the team's leading scorer with 10 goals, including both of the team's goals in the final, and Carin Jennings won the Golden Ball as the tournament's best player.
Julie Foudy, Kristine Lilly, and the rest of the 1999 team started a revolution towards women's team sports in America. Arguably their most influential and memorable victory came in the 1999 World Cup when they defeated 5–4 in a following a 0–0 draw after . With this win they emerged onto the world stage and brought significant media attention to women's soccer and athletics. On July 10, 1999, over 90,000 people (the largest ever for a women's sporting event and one of the largest attendances in the world for a tournament game final) filled the Rose Bowl to watch the United States play China in the Final. After a back and forth game, the score was tied 0–0 at full-time, and remained so after extra time, leading to a penalty kick shootout. With Briana Scurry's save of China's third kick, the score was 4–4 with only Brandi Chastain left to shoot. She scored and won the game for the United States. Chastain famously dropped to her knees and whipped off her shirt, celebrating in her sports bra, which later made the cover of Sports Illustrated and the front pages of newspapers around the country and world. This win influenced many girls to want to play on a soccer team.
In the 2003 FIFA Women's World Cup, the U.S. defeated Norway 1–0 in the quarterfinals, but lost 0–3 to Germany in the semifinals. The team then defeated Canada 3–1 to claim third place. Abby Wambach was the team's top scorer with three goals; Joy Fawcett and Shannon Boxx made the tournament's all-star team.
At the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup, the U.S. defeated England 3–0 in the quarterfinals but then suffered its most lopsided loss in team history when it lost to Brazil 0–4 in the semifinals. The U.S. recovered to defeat Norway to take third place. Abby Wambach was the team's leading scorer with 6 goals, and Kristine Lilly was the only American named to the tournament's all-star team.
In the quarterfinal of the 2011 Women's World Cup in Germany, the U.S. defeated Brazil 5–3 on penalty kicks. Abby Wambach's goal in the 122nd minute to tie the game 2–2 has been voted the greatest goal in U.S. soccer history and the greatest goal in Women's World Cup history. The U.S. then beat France 3–1 in the semifinal, but lost to Japan 3–1 on penalty kicks in the Final after drawing 1–1 in regulation and 2–2 in overtime. Hope Solo was named the tournament's best goalkeeper and Abby Wambach won the silver ball as the tournament's second best player.
In the 2012 Summer Olympics, the U.S. won the gold medal for the fourth time in five Olympics by defeating Japan 2–1 in front of 80,203 fans at Wembley Stadium, a record for a women's soccer game at the Olympics. The United States advanced to face Japan for the gold medal by winning the semifinal against Canada, a 4–3 victory at the end of extra time. The 2012 London Olympics marked the first time the USWNT won every game en route to the gold medal and set an Olympic women's team record of 16 goals scored.
The National Women's Soccer League started in 2013, and provided competitive games as well as opportunities to players on the fringes of the squad. The U.S. had a 43-game unbeaten streak that spanned two years—the streak began with a 4–0 win over Sweden in the 2012 Algarve Cup, and came to an end after a 1–0 loss against in the 2014 Algarve Cup.
The USA defeated Japan 5–2 in the final of the 2015 World Cup, becoming the first team in history to win three Women's World Cup titles. In the 16th minute, Carli Lloyd achieved the fastest hat-trick from kick-off in World Cup history, and Abby Wambach was greeted with a standing ovation for her last World Cup match. Following their 2015 World Cup win, the team was honored with a ticker tape parade in New York City, the first for a women's sports team. Sports Illustrated celebrated them with 25 covers of the magazine. President Barack Obama welcomed them to the White House, stating, "This team taught all of America's children that 'playing like a girl' means you're a badass," before going on to say, "'playing like a girl' means being the best."
On December 16, 2015, however, a 0–1 loss to China in Wambach's last game meant the team's first home loss since 2004, ending their 104-game home unbeaten streak.
In the 2016 Summer Olympics, the U.S. drew against in the quarterfinal; in the following penalty kick phase, Sweden won the game 4–3. The loss marked the first time that the USWNT did not advance to the gold medal game of the Olympics, and the first time that the USWNT failed to advance to the semifinal round of a major tournament.
After the defeat in the 2016 Olympics, the USWNT underwent a year of experimentation which saw them losing 3 home games. If not for a comeback win against Brazil, the USWNT was on the brink of losing 4 home games in one year, a low never before seen by the USWNT. 2017 saw the USWNT play 12 games against teams ranked in the top-15 in the world.
Throughout 2018, the U.S. would pick up two major tournament wins, winning both the SheBelieves Cup and the Tournament of Nations. The team would enter qualifying for the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup on a 21-game unbeaten streak and would dominate the competition, winning all five of its games and the tournament whilst qualifying for the World Cup as well as scoring 18 goals and conceding none. On November 8, 2018, the U.S. earned their 500th victory in team history after a 1–0 victory over  After defeating Scotland on November 13, the U.S. would finish 2018 with a record of 18 wins, no losses, and two ties, marking the fourth time in the teams history that they had gone undefeated in a calendar year whilst playing at least ten games. On December 7, Alex Morgan was voted 2018 U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year for the second time in her career after scoring 18 goals in 19 games for the U.S. in 2018.
The start of 2019 saw the U.S. lose an away game to , 3–1, marking the end of a 28-game unbeaten streak and their first loss since a 1–0 defeat to Australia in July 2017