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U.S. women finish 2016 atop FIFA rankings

U.S. women finish 2016 atop FIFA rankings
Members of the U.S. women's soccer team stand during a shootout with Sweden during a quarterfinal match of the Olympics. (Eraldo Peres / Associated Press)

The women's national team probably won't have a collecting bargaining agreement with U.S. Soccer heading into the new year, but it will have another No. 1 world ranking, beating out Olympic champion Germany for the top spot in the new poll.

The U.S. won all six of its games since the last FIFA rankings were announced to hold on to the top spot in a poll that showed the growing strength of the women's game. While the top 10 teams in the men's poll released Thursday were from either South America or Europe, the women's top 10 included teams from five continents.

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Although the U.S. failed to reach the Olympic final for the first time last summer, losing to Sweden in a penalty-kick shootout in the quarterfinals, it will finish the year 22-0-3, having outscored opponents 92-10. The Americans have lost just one of their last 50 games dating to January of 2015. And save for a brief spell in 2014, when it fell to second behind Germany, the U.S. has topped the FIFA rankings since 2008.

That could prove helpful at the negotiating table, where the union representing the players is pushing for a new deal with U.S. Soccer. The old collective bargaining agreement expires Dec. 31, and the two sides are apparently far apart in talks for a new one, with the players, citing statistics showing the women's team is far more successful and popular than the men's team, pushing for better pay and benefits.

Last spring the women filed a complaint with the EEOC claiming they were paid less than a third what players on the men's national team received despite winning more games and drawing larger crowds. The U.S. Soccer Federation responded by saying the numbers are misleading

The drawn-out negotiations have already led U.S. star Alex Morgan to sign with a club in France for the first half of 2017, skipping the start of the National Women's Soccer League season.

The FIFA rankings are determined by a mathematical formula that takes into account results, the relative strength of opponents, the importance of the match and where it was played.

The top 20

1. U.S.

2. Germany

3. France

4. Canada

5. England

6. Australia

7. Japan

8. Sweden

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9. Brazil

10. North Korea

11. Norway

12. The Netherlands

13. China

14. Spain

15. Denmark

16. Italy

17. Switzerland

18. South Koera

19. New Zealand

20. Iceland

kevin.baxter@latimes.com Twitter: kbaxter11

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