skip navigation

The Beautiful Game: U.S. Women’s National Team’s Success Pivotal For Growth of American Soccer

By Kelsey Price, 05/13/16, 11:00AM PDT

Share

When the U.S. Women’s National Team burst onto the world soccer scene in 1991, no one could have predicted how they would revolutionize the American and global sporting landscape in just 25 years. Julie Foudy and Carla Overbeck led the U.S. Women’s National Team to their first-ever international soccer title during that year’s inaugural FIFA Women’s World Cup, and it was only a taste of what was to come.

Since that first world title, the USWNT has continued to dominate the global soccer scene, appearing in every World Cup semifinal, making it to five finals and winning the tournament three times. Throughout the 1990s, the USWNT continued to make their mark, winning the gold medal match at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. During the 1995 World Cup, the United States fell to Norway in the semifinals, but went on to win the third-place match against China.

As if that early success wasn’t already enough, then came the 1999 Women’s World Cup. Before the “15ers,” like Carli Llyod and Sydney Leroux there was the “99ers,” the team of women who not only captured the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup, but also the attention of the United States and the world.

The likes of Mia Hamm, Michele Akers, Brandi Chastain and Christie Rampone became household names and legends of not only women’s soccer, but of American soccer as a whole. Those women inspired a whole generation of young girls, while captivating a country that had previously not paid much attention to either women’s soccer or the sport in general.

That victory—forever immortalized in an image of Chastain kneeling in exuberance in her black sports bra—coupled with the repeated domination of the national women’s team has been pivotal for the growth of the beautiful game in the United States; a country where soccer has always been second tier to its home grown sports such as baseball, football and basketball.

The USWNT continues to break barriers and grow the game in the United States. Retired USWNT forward Abby Wambach is the leading all-time international scorer for men and women, with a whopping 184 goals compared to 109 international goals for Ali Daei of Iran, the leading man.

Following their most recent World Cup victory in 2015, the USWNT was honored with their own ticker tape parade in New York City, a first for any women’s international sports team. The team’s victory tour included a visit to the White House and personal congratulations by President Barack Obama.

Now, the team prepares for their next challenge – defending their gold medals in Rio at this year’s Summer Olympics. The stats are in the USWNT favor, having won a gold medal at every Summer Olympics except for one in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, where the team took silver.

When asked about her team’s success and what mountains she has left to climb after the USWNT captured their third World Cup, USWNT Head Coach Jill Ellis had this to say.

“Well, I’m no mountaineer,” she said. “But I do know that the thing about reaching the top of a mountain is that there’s always another one to climb.”

Fans at Saturday's Republic FC vs Sounders FC 2 match have opportunity to hear from World Cup winner and eight-year USWNT Captain Christie Rampone prior to the match. Rampone will host a pre-match ‘chalk talk’ presented by Wells Fargo. The prematch ‘chalk talk’ is open to the public and begins at 6:15 p.m. in the north endline bleachers.

“Sacramento has a long history of supporting women’s pro sports and with the likelihood that it will be an MLS city soon, I look forward to the possibilities of the NWSL also expanding to this soccer community.”

Learn more about the USWNT schedule and roster at ussoccer.com.