The United States Women’s National soccer team is arguably the best squad of all time in their sport, and has been the most successful women’s team in international soccer. Over the course of their history, the USWNT has won four FIFA Women’s World Cup titles, eight CONCACAF Women’s Championships, and four Olympic gold medals. Let’s take a look at some of their best, most iconic, and most memorable moments.
10. The USWNT’s First Game
Greatness has to start somewhere. For the USWNT, it started at a tournament in Italy. Their first game was against Italy, which they lost 1-0. The team lost three of four games, while the other game ended in a draw. This might seem a bit dismal, but history needs a starting point. The first goal scored was by Michelle Akers, a USWNT legend, and all of the players were under the age of 25. The first coach was Mike Ryan, who never coached the team again after that.
9. The First Women’s World Cup (1991)
The first women’s World Cup was littered with asterisks. It wasn’t even actually given the title of “FIFA Women’s World Cup”, because FIFA was not sure that it would succeed. So, they titled the tournament “1st FIFA World Championship for Women’s Football For the M&M’s Cup.”Additionally, games were 80 minutes long instead of the typical 90. The games were played in China, and domination is an understatement for the USWNT’s performance. They outshot their opponents by a total of 25 goals. Michelle Akers scored 10 tallies total; two of them coming in the final game, a 2-1 win over Norway. The team’s roster in 1991 was made up of U.S. Soccer royalty, with names like Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, and Brandi Chastain, who would break out for their standout heroic moments in World Cups to come.
8. The 2008 Olympic Gold Medal (2008)
Fast forward to 2008, where the USWNT’s play was uncertain. Superstar Abby Wambach was out indefinitely with a broken leg, and captain Kristine Lilly was on maternity leave. The team lost their first game, but rallied in the next four to make it to the gold medal game against Brazil. The game was scoreless, and required extra time.
Enter Carli Lloyd. She scored the go-ahead goal five minutes into extra time, and secured the gold medal for the U.S. in epic fashion.
7. The Rebuild (2016)
The 2016 Olympics in Rio was lackluster for the USWNT. A quarterfinal loss to Sweden, which was coached at the time by former U.S. coach Pia Sundhage, marked the first time the USWNT had not advanced to the semi-final round in a major international tournament. The loss left a bitter taste in the team’s mouth.
The team needed to shift gears. How do they move on from a devastating loss like that? The team focused on a rebuild. The USWNT was able to recruit and place young promising players like Rose Lavelle and Tierna Davidson, and reconfigure its lineups for better positioning. The rebuild helped to spark a “renaissance” in U.S. soccer.
The team has since continued to dazzle fans over and over again with its players skill, tenacity, and passion for the game. Since 2016, the USWNT has gone on to win the She Believes Cup and Tournament of Champions in 2018, and the team’s fourth FIFA World Cup title in 2019.
6. Mia Hamm: Full-Time Striker, Part-Time Goalie (1995)
Mia Hamm was a legendary soccer player in her own right. She scored goals and was a pest for any opposing team’s defense. During the 1995 Women’s World Cup, she had to trade scoring goals with the mentality of not getting scored on.
Briana Scurry was one of the best USWNT team goalies. In a game against Denmark, though, a silly mistake cost her team a red card. She had barely stepped out of her box on a punt, and the referee promptly showed her off the field. The U.S had used all of their substitutions, so the backup goalie couldn’t enter the game.
So, Mia Hamm stepped up and defended the net. She made two saves, and the USWNT team won 2-0.
5. Carli Lloyd’s Half-Field Shot (2015)
The 2015 World Cup was the biggest stage for the USWNT to prove itself. After the loss in the final in 2011, they needed a big performance to take them out of that slump.
The team made it to the final again and had to play Japan, who had beat them in the 2011 final. The U.S. wanted redemption, and they got it. USWNT won the game 5-2, their third World Cup victory, and Carli Lloyd fired one of the most impressive shots in the modern era, a ball blasted from half-field, securing her hat trick in the final.
4. Legends’ Last Olympics (2004)
The 2004 summer Olympics were held in Greece. Prior to the tournament though, Mia Hamm, Joy Fawcett, and Julie Foudy announced they would be stepping away and retiring once the tournament was over. They made it to finals, and the only thing standing between those three superstars and golden immortality was Brazil.
The game required extra time to determine a victor. Abby Wambach then was a young sensation, having just over a dozen caps to her name. She scored in the 112th minute to secure gold with a 2-1 win. The legends of U.S. Soccer went out in the same fashion they always produced, a win.
3. Abby’s Scoring Prowess Places Her At The Top (2013)
Mia Hamm scored 158 goals for the red, white, and blue, which was the record scoring title on the women’s side. Abby Wambach eventually surpassed Hamm, not only by a goal or two, but by almost thirty.
Wambach has 184 goals in her career, the most of any U.S. Soccer player, male or female. In a game against South Korea, Wambach went into it two goals behind Hamm’s record. She scored two goals within seven minutes of each other to tie it, and then the last one, passing Hamm’s record, in the 29th minute.
2. The Lawsuit (2019)
Not only are the women on the national team impressive on the field, but also are just as tenacious in their fights for social justice and pay equality.
In 2019, the team sued the U.S. Soccer Federation on the grounds of unequal pay and gender discrimination. The lawsuit is still being sorted out, after the case was dismissed by a judge. The team is continuing to fight this, as well as other social injustices in the world, such as racial inequality and police brutality in the U.S. These women are not only great people, but also great role models to young people everywhere. They fight for what they believe in, and won’t stop until they get it. That is a great message to pass on to the next generation of soccer players.
1. The 1999 World Cup (1999)
The 1999 World Cup performance from the U.S. will go down in history as one of its best. The team, immortalized as the 99ers, showed the world that women’s soccer was a competitive market worthy of an audience that was just as large as the men’s side of the sport. Basically, these women showed the world that they could play, and demanded everyone’s attention.
The team won the tournament 5-4 against China, decided by penalty shots. Brandi Chastain was the titan for the team as she stepped up to the spot, and fired her shot. It wasn’t destined to stop anywhere but the back of the net. She rips off her jersey, and her and the team celebrate. It cemented that team into history, and inspired the next generation of women’s soccer players.
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