Escherichia coli sequence type 131 (ST131) is an extensively antimicrobial-resistant E. coli clonal group that has spread explosively throughout the world. Recent molecular epidemiologic and whole-genome phylogenetic studies have elucidated the fine clonal structure of ST131, which comprises multiple ST131 subclones with distinctive resistance profiles, including the (nested) H30, H30-R, and H30-Rx subclones. The most prevalent ST131 subclone, H30, arose from a single common fluoroquinolone (FQ)-susceptible ancestor containing allele 30 of fimH (type 1 fimbrial adhesin gene). An early H30 subclone member acquired FQ resistance and launched the rapid expansion of the resulting FQ-resistant subclone, H30-R. Subsequently, a member of H30-R acquired the CTX-M-15 extended-spectrum beta-lactamase and launched the rapid expansion of the CTX-M-15-containing subclone within H30-R, H30-Rx. Clonal expansion clearly is now the dominant mechanism for the rising prevalence of both FQ resistance and CTX-M-15 production in ST131 and in E. coli generally. Reasons for the successful dissemination and expansion of the key ST131 subclones remain undefined but may include increased transmissibility, greater ability to colonize and/or persist in the intestine or urinary tract, enhanced virulence, and more-extensive antimicrobial resistance compared to other E. coli. Here we discuss the epidemiology and molecular phylogeny of ST131 and its key subclones, possible mechanisms for their ecological success, implications of their widespread dissemination, and future research needs.