Carli Lloyd netted the fastest hat trick in World Cup history, male or female.

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VANCOUVER, B.C. — Carli Lloyd isn’t the only American of her generation to have grown up picturing herself lifting the Women’s World Cup. Her dreams were just way more specific.

The 1999 United States women’s soccer team inspired a generation of dreamers, girls who have become women, with teams who have tried and failed to bear the weight of their pristine legacy.

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“When I watched the ’99 team play, never do you really think you can be a part of something like that,” Lloyd said.

But every year, she felt herself move closer and closer to her ultimate goal. This spring, during a particularly taxing workout session on a lonely practice field in South Jersey, the image came to Lloyd in a flash.

“I just completely zoned out,” Lloyd said. “I dreamed of and visualized playing in a World Cup final and visualized scoring four goals.”

So maybe reality didn’t quite live up to fantasy. But the fact that Lloyd scored a mere three goals instead of four was about the only underwhelming thing about an almost-too-perfect-to-be-true Sunday afternoon at BC Place — a 5-2 rout of defending champion Japan that ended with the U.S. claiming its first World Cup title in 16 years.

“To be quite honest, it felt like I was in a dream,” veteran forward Abby Wambach said, “sitting there on the bench watching Carli Lloyd go off.”

Added Lloyd: “I feel like I blacked out for the first 30 minutes or so of that game.”

If so, Lloyd missed quite the show. By the 16th minute, she had recorded the fastest hat trick (scoring three goals) in World Cup history, men or women, and become the first soccer player since England’s Geoff Hurst in 1966 to score three goals in the final.

Lloyd, who missed a penalty kick as the U.S. lost to Japan in a shootout four years ago, opened the scoring less than three minutes in when she crashed onto Seattle Reign midfielder Megan Rapinoe’s low corner kick. Lloyd doubled the lead three minutes later, and Lauren Holiday made it 3-0 in the 14th.

The Japanese were stunned, rocked back on their heels.

The overwhelmingly American crowd of 53,341 urged their team forward, cheering for more.

Haze from British Columbia wildfires slipped into the open roof, lending an air of sleepy unreality to the biggest stage in women’s soccer.

“Pinch me,” U.S. coach Jill Ellis said of her thoughts during the whirlwind start. “Wake me up.”

Lloyd did nothing to dispel the illusion when, just moments after Holiday scored, she completed her hat trick with one of the most remarkable goals in World Cup history.

Though she was still on the other half of the field, Lloyd caught a glimpse of Japanese goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihora wandering too far off her goal line. Just a step inside the halfway line, Lloyd fired, lifting a high-arcing shot toward the distant goal. Kaihora backtracked, panicked, stumbled. She got flailing contact on the ball but nothing more — it ricocheted off the left post and over the line.

At 4-0, the rest of the match served as a 75-minute coronation for an accomplished-if-unfulfilled generation of Americans — even if Japan did test their nerve in the two minutes between Julie Johnston’s own goal that cut the lead to two and Tobin Heath’s well-placed shot that restored it to three.

Though the U.S. got some measure of redemption for the 2011 World Cup loss with an Olympic gold medal in 2012, this ultimate prize had eluded the U.S. women for years.

Wambach, the all-time leading scorer in international women’s soccer, said before the tournament that she needed a World Cup title “as bad as my body needs air.”

“I’ve dedicated my whole life to this,” Lloyd said. “Everything else comes second. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

On Sunday, the moment could have gotten to her and her teammates, the burden proving too heavy. Instead, they seized it almost from the opening whistle.

“These players were born for big moments,” Ellis said. “This is what they relish.”

Said Lloyd: “There was something different in the air within our team these last couple of days. There was no hesitation, no doubt.”

Wambach replaced Heath in the 79th minute, entering to an extended ovation.

Christie Rampone followed her onto the field a few minutes later to become the first 40-year-old to play in a Women’s World Cup game.

The result became more of a foregone conclusion with each passing minute.

“I envisioned us lifting the trophy,” Ellis admitted afterward. “I let myself go there.”

On Sunday evening at a packed-to-the-brim BC Place, they all opened their eyes, the dream having at long last become reality.

Fans at the Atlantic Crossing Pub in Seattle go crazy for the U.S. Women’s national soccer team as they defeat Japan 5-2 in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup Finals. (Lauren Frohne / The Seattle Times)