We knew “Winners Match 41” would be the United States women’s national team.This game officially has been on the FIFA Women’s World Cup schedule since Monday, and yet it has been desperately anticipated for more than six months, even though it is only a tournament quarterfinal. And there is an excellent reason for this: It will be the biggest game in the history of women’s soccer.MORE: USWNT vs. France by the numbersIt will not be the biggest spectacle. The 1999 Women’s World Cup final drew 90,185 to the Rose Bowl for the final between the U.S. and China, as well as a TV audience of 17.9 million. It will not be the most consequential game; one could point to any of the World Cup finals or even the China-Canada match at the FIFA Women’s Invitation Tournament that drew 40,000 spectators and convinced FIFA that Norwegian Pioneer Ellen Wille was right, there ought to be a Women’s World Cup.The United States vs. France — FIFA’s No. 1 team and the reigning World Cup champion against the No. 4 team defending its home turf — is bigger than all of that because women’s soccer is getting bigger every day.”This is where you want to be. It’s a big game. It’s a global game,” U.S. coach Jill Ellis said Thursday at the team’s press conference. “I’ve talked a lot the past couple weeks about just where the game is, and I think this is a magnificent showpiece for our sport. It’s the most popular sport in in the world now, I believe, for women. I think this game makes it bigger.”You can see it in the U.S. television ratings being rung up by Fox Sports and Telemundo. Fox reports a 21 percent audience increase for 2019 over the 2015 Women’s World Cup, even though the previous one was played in North America with most key games in prime time. The Americans’ victory over Spain in the Round of 16 was the most-watched weekday women’s game in U.S. Spanish-language history, with an audience of 740,000 that wasn’t so far off the network’s audience for the 2015 final.MORE: USA is a slim favorite entering match vs. FranceIt is about much more than the growth of the audience, though. It is about the growth of the game. It is about more nations appreciating and investing in women’s soccer so that the level of competition rises — perhaps not the point warranted by the interest of prospective competitors, but far beyond what was apparent in the past.That can be seen in the success of Spain, which did not qualify for the Women’s World Cup until 2015 and now, with a recent FIFA U20 championship, is seen as a future power. It can be seen in the ascent of the Netherlands, which did not qualify for the Women’s World Cup until 2015 but won the European Championship two years ago and has yet to lose at this year’s tournament.It can be seen most profoundly with France, which has been turned onto the sport in part through the success of the Olympic Lyonnais club that features many of the regulars for the country’s women’s national team. Lyon has won 13 consecutive Division I titles in France and the past four editions of the UEFA Women’s Champions League.Such elite French players as goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi, forwards Eugenie le Sommer and Delphine Cascarino, midfielders Amandine Henry and Amel Majri and defender Wendie Renard play for Lyon, but it also is home to defender Lucy Bronze of World Cup contender England and Germany star Dzsenifer Marozsan. And Americans Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan played there previously.“This is what everyone’s been waiting for: this kind of game and this kind of matchup,” U.S. midfielder Lindsey Horan told Sirius/XM FC radio Thursday. “This is what makes it so amazing for a spectator to watch: France vs. U.S., two top teams, and France playing at home in Paris. It’s going to be freaking amazing and crazy and so much good football and so much excitement.”With three World Cup titles and four Olympic gold medals, the United States is the singular power of the women’s game. The Americans won the first World Cup and the most recent one. And they are fielding their deepest, ever. They have lost only one game since the start of 2018. They set a World Cup record with 13 goals in their opening game, then rested more than half their starting lineup and pitched another shutout in their second.“The mentality of this team is what gives me confidence,” U.S. midfielder Samantha Mewis at Wednesday’s press conference in Paris. “The history of this team, what this team means to me — I mean, I grew up watching these women play, I grew up idolizing them — and to get to be here now and wear the crest and represent what this team has always stood for …”It’s bigger than me, so whatever confidence I feel is really about the people around me and the people who have come before me and have made the U.S. women’s national team into what it is.” France’s women’s national team never has experienced tangible success at a major tournament. Its best placement in the Olympics: fourth in 2012, no medal. Its best finish at a World Cup: fourth in 2011, losers of the consolation game to Sweden. It’s been the same deal at the Euros. And yet this has been set up so perfectly for France: playing at home, their biggest game in the nation’s capital, the memory of France’s victory at last summer’s World Cup still fresh enough to convince the nation’s fans they can rule both aspects of the sport. They are the only team to beat the U.S. in the past two years, in a January friendly, although the Americans did not deploy roughly half of their starters.“This is the kind of game that makes World Cups so exciting,” U.S. winger Tobin Heath said. “This is a game we have been looking forward to our whole lives, I guess, in a way.“It’s a privilege to be able to play a host country, in a host nation. Because it’s just not much bigger, and those are the types of games that we love, that we just thrive in.” It has beamed at us from the world sporting calendar for 202 days, though for nearly all that time it wore a flimsy attempt at disguise: Friday, June 28 at Parc des Princes in Paris, Winners Match 40 vs. Winners Match 41. No one was fooled by this. It was like the silly pair of eyeglasses Clark Kent wears in every Superman movie or TV show. How can everyone not see?We all knew, in the end, “Winners Match 40” would be France.