The match was between the United States (USA), which has been a major power in women's association football since winning the inaugural World Cup championship, and Japan, which had never won a major world title, or indeed even reached the finals of a major world competition. This is also the first appearances of the team in the final after 12 years.The United States was bidding to become the first team to win a third world championship, having won in 1991 and 1999. Japan became the fourth team to win a world championship, joining the United States, Norway and Germany.
The match was the third between the two teams in World Cup play. The United States beat Japan 3–0 in pool play in 1991, and won 4–0 in a 1995 quarterfinal match. Going into the final, the USA had never lost to Japan, with 22 wins and 3 draws. Prior to the World Cup, the United States was the top-ranked team in the FIFA Women's World Rankings, while Japan was ranked fourth.
This marked the first time that a team won the World Cup having lost a match in pool play.
Japan became only the second Asian national team to reach the FIFA Women's World Cup Final, following China's final appearance against the United States in 1999. This was also only the second final not involving a European team.
Once at the finals, the United States reached the knockout stage by finishing second in Group C behind Sweden, the only team they lost to in group play. They advanced through the quarterfinals on a penalty shootout with Brazil, in which the United States footballer Abby Wambach scored an equalizer in the 122nd minute of the game – in stoppage time, the latest goal ever scored in Women's World Cup play, – to tie the game 2–2 and bring the game into a penalty shootout. The United States then defeated France 3–1 to reach the final.
Japan reached the knockout stage by finishing second in Group B behind England, which was the only team to defeat Japan in group play. Japan then stunned the host nation, two-time defending champions Germany, 1–0 in extra time. They then defeated Sweden 3–1 to reach the final match.