History of the United States women's national soccer team

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The history of the United States women's national soccer team began in 1985 — the year when the United States women's national soccer team played its first match.

A parade in the Canyon of Heroes in Lower Manhattan, celebrating the winning of the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup


The team played its first match at the Mundialito tournament on August 18, 1985, coached by Mike Ryan, in which they lost 1–0 to Italy. In March 2004, two of its stars, Mia Hamm (who retired later that year after a post-Olympic team tour of the USA) and Michelle Akers (who had already retired), were the only two women and the only two Americans named to the FIFA 100, a list of the 125 greatest living soccer players chosen by Pelé as part of FIFA's centenary observances. Those two women along with Julie Foudy, Kristine Lilly, and the 1999 team started a revolution towards women's team sports in America. The USWNT won every game they played in this tournament. In their group stage, they beat Denmark 3-0 at Giants Stadium just outside New York City, they then thrashed Nigeria 7-1 at Soldier Field in Chicago and finally they beat North Korea 3-0 at Foxboro Stadium near Boston. Going into the knockout stage, they then beat a fancied Germany 3-2 at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium just outside the American capital of Washington, D.C. and the USWNT then traveled to the San Francisco Bay Area to beat Brazil 2-0 at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto. And then, they traveled to Los Angeles to play China at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena for the final match which would decide the winner of this most prestigious tournament.

This 1999 World Cup final match was arguably the USWNT's most influential and memorable victory. It came when they defeated China 5–4 in a penalty shoot-out following a 0–0 draw after extended time.[1] With this win they emerged onto the world stage and brought significant media attention to women's soccer and athletics. On July 10, 1999, over 90,000 people (the largest ever for a women's sporting event and one of the largest attendances in the world for a tournament game final) filled the Rose Bowl to watch the United States play China in the Final. After a back and forth game, the score was tied 0–0 at full-time, and remained so after extra time, leading to a penalty kick shootout. With Briana Scurry's save of China's third kick, the score was 4–4 with only Brandi Chastain left to shoot. She scored and won the game for the United States. Chastain famously dropped to her knees and whipped off her shirt, celebrating in her sports bra, which later made the cover of Sports Illustrated and the front pages of newspapers around the country and world.[2][3][4]


Perhaps the second most influential victory came on July 10, 2011, in the quarterfinal of the 2011 Women's World Cup in Germany, where the U.S. defeated Brazil 5–3 on penalty kicks. Brazil had annihilated the USA in the previous world cup (2007), handing the USA their worst defeat in the history of the program: 4–0 in the semifinal. Coming into the match, the USA had never failed to advance to the semifinal round in (women's) world cup history. Brazil also featured reigning five time Fifa Women's World Player of the Year, Marta. Brazil had been finalists in the past three major international tournaments (2004 and 2008 Olympics; 2007 World Cup), but had yet to win a championship. Thanks to a blistering cross by Shannon Boxx and a charging run by Abby Wambach, the USA forced an own goal in the opening minutes of the match and went up 1–0. Midway through the second half, Marta made a run at the USA's goal and USA defender Rachel Buehler challenged. The referee, Jacqui Melksham, ruled it a foul, gave Brazil a penalty kick, and red carded Buehler, sending her off in the 65th minute. Hope Solo saved the initial penalty kick made by Cristiane, but this was controversially overruled by the referee, and the penalty kick was ordered to be retaken. Marta converted, tying the game 1–1. Melksham initially claimed the reason for the red was that Hope Solo had stepped off the line. Solo was yellow-carded for either this offense or for protesting (the reason for the card was never confirmed). Video replay proved Solo had not come off the line, and after the match, the official record claimed that the true offense was a US player encroaching into the box before the initial PK was taken. In the first overtime, Marta scored, again controversially as the player who assisted her looked to be offsides, but this was not called. The US had less than 20 minutes to equalize, all while playing down a player since the 65th minute. In the 117th minute, the Brazilian Erika received a yellow card for gamesmanship, when she faked injury for several minutes, was placed on a stretcher and carried to the corner flag before she leapt off the stretcher and ran back onto the pitch. This confused everyone as to how much injury time was left. In the 121st minute, Carli Lloyd took a shot and missed, giving possession back to Brazil. Cristiane took the ball to the USA's corner and stood on it, wanting to waste the clock. USA captain Christie Rampone pressured her to pass and the ball was intercepted by Ali Krieger. Krieger passed to Lloyd who dribbled upfield and drew several Brazilian players, leaving Megan Rapinoe open on the wing. Lloyd passed to Rapinoe who hugged the sideline. Just past the midstripe, Rapinoe hammered a left-footed (she's dominantly right-footed) 45 yard cross to the Brazilian back post where Abby Wambach was crashing. It was the 122nd minute, and Abby scored on her signature header. The goal was called the "Header Heard Round the World" and it tied the game 2–2.[5] It has been voted the greatest goal in US soccer history[5] and the greatest goal in women's world cup history.[6] Commentator Ian Darke shouted, "OH DO YOU BELIEVE THIS?! ABBY WAMBACH HAS JUST SAVED THE USA'S LIFE IN THIS WORLD CUP!" and later, "Brazil is denied at the death!" All of the USA's penalty kick takers – Shannon Box, Carli Lloyd, Abby Wambach, Megan Rapinoe, and Ali Krieger – converted their PKs. Hope Solo saved Daiane's attempt at a PK, allowing the US to win 5–3 in PKs. Solo was named MVP of the match. Coincidentally, the USA-Brazil match (nicknamed the "Miracle in Dresden") was played on the 12th anniversary of the memorable 1999 World Cup Final (described above), which the US also won on penalty kicks. Brianna Scurry and Hope Solo each made a save on the third PK taker, and the USA players who scored the winning penalty kicks (Brandi Chastain and Ali Krieger, respectfully) were both defenders who didn't normally take PKs.


In the 2012 Summer Olympics, the U.S. won the gold medal for the fourth time in five Olympics by defeating Japan 2–1 in front of 80,203 fans at Wembley Stadium, a record for a women's soccer game at the Olympics.[7] The United States advanced to face Japan for the gold medal after the 2011 Women's World Cup Final, won by the Japanese in a penalty shoot-out, by winning arguably one of the greatest games only rivaled by the victories mentioned above. In the semi-final match against Canada, the Americans trailed three times before Alex Morgan's header in the third minute of injury time at the end of 30 minutes of extra-time lifted the team to a 4–3 victory. Morgan's game-winning goal (123') is now the latest tally ever in a FIFA competition.[8] The London Olympics marked the first time the USWNT won every game en route to the gold medal and set an Olympic women's team record of 16 goals scored.[8] Wambach scored a team-leading five goals in five straight games, which is a U.S. and Olympic record, while Morgan and Rapinoe led the team with four assists apiece, which attributed to their team-high tying 10 points.[8] By scoring both goals in the 2012 Olympic final, Carli Lloyd is the only woman in history to score the winning goal in separate gold Olympic matches (2008 and 2012).

In late 2012 U.S. Soccer (along with the Canadian Soccer Association and Mexican Football Federation) announced it would subsidize formation of the new National Women's Soccer League starting in 2013,[9] following previous termination of the Women's United Soccer Association and Women's Professional Soccer leagues. Stated benefits to the women's national team included providing "competitive games week in and week out against the other best players in the country as well as some international players", and giving "opportunities to players who may not have the chance in the past to play for the national team or to players who have been on the fringes but haven't been able to break into the squad."[10]

In the 2013 season, USA had an undefeated record of 14–0–2 with their last win against Brazil with a score of 4–1 as part of a longer 43-game unbeaten streak that spanned two years. The USA's 43-game unbeaten streak came to an end after a 1–0 loss against Sweden in the 2014 Algarve Cup. The streak began with a 4–0 win over Sweden in the 2012 Algarve Cup after a 1–0 loss against Japan.[11][12] The USWNT's 104-game home unbeaten streak ended on December 16, 2015 with a 1–0 loss to China.

In December 2013, the USWNT All-Time Best XI was chosen by the United States Soccer Federation. Goalie: Brianna Scurry; Defenders: Brandi Chastain, Carla Overbeck, Christie Rampone, Joy Fawcett; Midfielders: Kristine Lilly, Michelle Akers, Julie Foudy; Forwards: Mia Hamm, Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan [13]


On July 5, 2015, USA defeated Japan 5–2 in the final of the 2015 World Cup, claiming their third Women's World Cup title and their first since 1999. Carli Lloyd scored three goals in 16 minutes, including one from 56.9 yards out, achieving the fastest hat-trick from kick-off in World Cup history, not to be confused with the record for briefest hat-trick (time between first and third goals), which is 5 minutes. With Lloyd's third goal, Telemundo announcer, Andres Cantor, shouted "GOOOOOOAL!" for nearly forty seconds. Lauren Holiday scored the winning goal and Tobin Heath scored the USA's fifth goal. With about 10 minutes left, Abby Wambach was subbed into the game, and it was the last World Cup match she would participate in. The fans greeted her with a standing ovation and chanted her name. Lloyd, wanting to honor Abby further, placed the captain's band on her when she entered. Lloyd said, "I wanted to make sure she put the armband on because she deserves it. She has been legendary to this team. She's been unbelievable. I'm so thankful I can call her my friend, my teammate, and I'm just so proud her last World Cup she could go out strong." [14] As Abby entered the match, she high-fived her long time friend and Japanese legend Homare Sawa, who, like Abby, was playing in her final World Cup. Sawa had been subbed into the match in the first half. In the 86th minute, longtime team captain Christie Rampone was subbed into the game and became the oldest player to ever play in a Women's World Cup final. The crowd roared, as this was a further nod of respect from Ellis' 2015 world champion squad to the 1999 championship team. Rampone was the only member of the squad to have been in both championship teams.

While no one pulled a Brandi Chastain in 2015, new enduring images of celebration emerged. Carli Lloyd crying on the field with a relieved grin; Ali Kreiger crying on the same field where she tore her ACL in 2012; Sydney Leroux embracing her husband in the stands, showing that men can be just as supportive of their spouses as their wives are for them; golden confetti showering a victorious USA team as the captains dually lift the trophy. But perhaps the most famous celebration was when Abby Wambach ran to the sideline and kissed her wife, Sara Huffman, whom she had married in 2013. During the 2015 tournament, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled it unconstitutional to deny same-sex couples the right to marriage (Huffman and Wambach were not denied the right to marriage by their state, though prior to the 2015 SCOTUS decision, several states were attempting to make or had made same-sex marriages illegal). While Wambach and Huffman traditionally kept a low profile about their relationship, their kiss was broadcast live and the image went viral with the hashtag #LoveWins on Twitter.[15] Wambach reflected, "It's definitely not something that I ever considered before it happened. It was just in the moment and that's something that I'm proud of — that we could maybe move the needle into [a] more open-minded and accepting frame of mind… Hopefully, if that can help one person feel more confident about their life, then I'm proud."[16] President Obama acknowledge the moment as well when honoring the team at the white house, saying that she and her wife had showed how far America had come, on and off the field.[17] The victory made the team the first in history to have won three Women's World Cup titles, becoming the most successful team in the tournament to date.

Following their most recent World Cup win, the team was honored with their own ticker tape parade in New York City, the first for a women's sports team, and they also received the Outstanding Team award during the 2015 ESPY Awards and a Teen Choice Award for Favourite Female Athlete(s). They were honored by Glamour Magazine as "Women of the Year."[18] Sports Illustrated celebrated them with 25 covers of the magazine – one of several members of the team, one of Head Coach Jill Ellis, and then one cover for each member of the 23 player squad[19] The team was again honored on October 27, 2015, when President Barack Obama welcomed them to the White House.[20] The president stated, "This team taught all America's children that playing like a girl means you're a badass." He then amended, saying perhaps he should use a different word choice, and said, "Playing like a girl means you're the best."[21]


The USWNT's success ushered in an uncertain following year. In the second of two matches against China later that year, the USWNT lost for the first time on US soil since 2004. 2016 then saw the US only manage a draw against Colombia in the final group stage match of the Olympic soccer tournament, which was followed by a draw against rival Sweden on August 12, 2016 in the quarter-finals. During the penalty kick phase that followed the overtime period, Alex Morgan had her kick blocked by Sweden's GK and Christen Press's PK missed the Goal entirely – giving Sweden the win by a 4–3 PK margin. The devastating loss marked the only time that the USWNT did not advance to the gold medal game of the Olympics. It was also the first time that the USWNT failed to advance to the Semi-Final round of a major tournament. Shortly afterwards, US Goal Keeper Hope Solo made news by suggesting that Sweden's game strategy and excessively 'safe' style of play was inconsistent with the spirit of the sport which is commonly called 'the beautiful game'. Solo's use of the word 'cowards' to describe Sweden's players drew criticism from multiple sources, including at least one of her current teammates, along with ex-USWNT player and ESPN Commentator, Julie Foudy. On August 24, 2016, US Soccer's governing body suspended Solo for 6 months. Hope Solo is appealing the suspension.

Competitive record[edit]

This section lists the team's results in minor tournaments. For the team's results in major tournaments, see United States women's national soccer team

CONCACAF Championship and Gold Cup[edit]

Year Result Matches Wins Draws Losses GF GA Coach
Haiti 1991 Champion 5 5 0 0 49 0 Anson Dorrance
United States 1993 Champion 3 3 0 0 13 0 Anson Dorrance
Canada 1994 Champion 4 4 0 0 16 1 Tony DiCicco
Canada 1998 Did not participate1
United States 2000 Champion 5 4 1 0 24 1 April Heinrichs
United States Canada 2002 Champion 5 5 0 0 24 1 April Heinrichs
United States 2006 Champion 2 2 0 0 4 1 Greg Ryan
Mexico 2010 Third place 5 4 0 1 22 2 Pia Sundhage
United States 2014 Champion 5 5 0 0 21 0 Jill Ellis
Total 8/9 34 32 1 1 173 6

1 The US team directly qualified for the 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup as hosts of the event. Because of this, they did not participate in the 1998 CONCACAF Championship, which was the qualification tournament for the World Cup.

Algarve Cup[edit]

The Algarve Cup is a global invitational tournament for national teams in women's soccer hosted by the Portuguese Football Federation (FPF). Held annually in the Algarve region of Portugal since 1994, it is one of the most prestigious women's football events,[22] alongside the Women's World Cup and Women's Olympic Football.

Year Result Matches Wins Draws Losses GF GA Coach
1994 Runners-Up 3 2 0 1 6 1 Tony DiCicco
1995 4th Place 4 2 1 1 8 5 Tony DiCicco
1996 did not enter
1997 did not enter
1998 Third Place 4 3 0 1 10 6 Tony DiCicco
1999 Runners-Up 4 2 1 1 8 4 Tony DiCicco
2000 Champions 4 4 0 0 11 1 April Heinrichs
2001 6th Place 4 1 0 3 5 9 April Heinrichs
2002 5th Place 4 2 1 1 8 6 April Heinrichs
2003 Champions 4 2 2 0 5 2 April Heinrichs
2004 Champions 4 3 0 1 11 5 April Heinrichs
2005 Champions 4 4 0 0 9 0 Greg Ryan
2006 Runners-Up 4 2 2 0 9 1 Greg Ryan
2007 Champions 4 4 0 0 8 3 Greg Ryan
2008 Champions 4 4 0 0 12 1 Pia Sundhage
2009 Runners-Up 4 3 1 0 5 1 Pia Sundhage
2010 Champions 4 4 0 0 9 3 Pia Sundhage
2011 Champions 4 4 0 0 12 3 Pia Sundhage
2012 Third Place 4 3 0 1 11 2 Pia Sundhage
2013 Champions 4 3 1 0 11 1 Tom Sermanni
2014 7th Place 4 1 1 2 7 7 Tom Sermanni
2015 Champions 4 3 1 0 7 1 Jill Ellis
Total[23] 20/22 79 56 11 12 172 62

SheBelieves Cup[edit]

Year Result Matches Wins Draws Losses GF GA Coach
United States 2016 Champion 3 3 0 0 4 1 Jill Ellis
United States 2017 4th 3 1 0 2 1 4 Jill Ellis
United States 2018 Champion 3 2 1 0 3 1 Jill Ellis
Total 3/3 9 6 1 2 8 6

International Tournament of Brazil[edit]

International Women's Football Tournament of Brazil

Year Result Matches Wins Draws Losses GF GA Coach
Brazil 2014 Runners-Up 4 1 2 1 10 4 Jill Ellis
Total 1/6 4 1 2 1 10 4

Pan American Games[edit]

The Pan American Games are held in the same year as the FIFA Women's World Cup, consequently the senior United States women's national soccer team never participated in the Pan American Games. However two youth teams: an under-18 team participated and won the inaugural women's soccer tournament at the 1999 Pan American Games,[24] and an under-20 team lost in the final to a full Brazil team in the 2007 Pan American Games.[25] Some of the players who participated in those Pan American Games, such as Hope Solo, Tobin Heath, Lauren Cheney (now Holiday), Cat Reddick (now Whitehill) and Kelley O'Hara, later played for the full national team.

Yearly team summary[edit]

Year M W D L GF GA Athlete of the Year Scoring leader G Assist leader A Coach Major tournam. result
1985 4 0 1 3 3 7 Sharon Remer Michelle Akers 2 Mike Ryan
1986 6 4 0 2 April Heinrichs Marcia McDermott 4 Anson Dorrance
1987 11 6 1 4 Carin Gabarra April Heinrichs 7 Anson Dorrance
1988 8 3 2 3 Joy Fawcett Carin Gabarra 5 C. Gabarra, K. Lilly 2 Anson Dorrance
1989 1 0 1 0 April Heinrichs (none) (none) Anson Dorrance
1990 6 6 0 0 Michelle Akers Michelle Akers 9 Kristine Lilly 3 Anson Dorrance
1991 28 21 1 6 Michelle Akers Michelle Akers 39 Carin Gabarra 21 Anson Dorrance World Cup (Champions)
1992 2 0 0 2 Carin Gabarra (3 players tied) 1 Tisha Venturini 2 Anson Dorrance
1993 17 13 0 4 Kristine Lilly Mia Hamm 10 Michelle Akers 6 Anson Dorrance
1994 13 12 0 1 Mia Hamm Michelle Akers 11 Michelle Akers 7 Anson Dorrance
1995 25 21 2 2 Mia Hamm Mia Hamm 19 Mia Hamm 18 Tony DiCicco World Cup (3rd place)
1996 24 21 2 1 Mia Hamm Tiffeny Milbrett 13 Mia Hamm 18 Tony DiCicco Olympics (Gold medal)
1997 18 16 0 2 Mia Hamm Mia Hamm 18 Tiffeny Milbrett 14 Tony DiCicco
1998 25 22 2 1 Mia Hamm Mia Hamm 20 Mia Hamm 20 Tony DiCicco
1999 29 25 2 2 Michelle Akers Tiffeny Milbrett 21 Mia Hamm 16 Tony DiCicco World Cup (Champions)
2000 41 26 9 6 Tiffeny Milbrett Cindy Parlow 19 Mia Hamm 14 L. Gregg, A. Heinrichs Olympics (Silver medal)
2001 10 3 2 5 Tiffeny Milbrett Tiffeny Milbrett 3 Mia Hamm 2 April Heinrichs
2002 19 15 2 2 Shannon MacMillan Shannon MacMillan 17 Aly Wagner 11 April Heinrichs
2003 23 17 4 2 Abby Wambach Abby Wambach 9 Mia Hamm 9 April Heinrichs World Cup (3rd place)
2004 34 28 4 2 Abby Wambach Abby Wambach 31 Mia Hamm 22 April Heinrichs Olympics (Gold medal)
2005 9 8 1 0 Kristine Lilly Christie Welsh 7 A. Wagner, A. Wambach 5 Greg Ryan
2006 22 18 4 0 Kristine Lilly Abby Wambach 17 Abby Wambach 8 Greg Ryan
2007 24 19 4 1 Abby Wambach Abby Wambach 20 Kristine Lilly 8 Greg Ryan World Cup (3rd place)
2008 36 33 2 1 Carli Lloyd Natasha Kai 15 H. O'Reilly, A. Wambach 10 Pia Sundhage Olympics (Gold medal)
2009 8 7 1 0 Hope Solo (3 players tied) 2 Heather O'Reilly 3 Pia Sundhage
2010 18 15 2 1 Abby Wambach Abby Wambach 16 Lori Lindsey 7 Pia Sundhage
2011 20 13 4 3 Abby Wambach Abby Wambach 8 L. Holiday, M. Rapinoe 5 Pia Sundhage World Cup (2nd place)
2012 32 28 3 1 Alex Morgan Alex Morgan 28 Alex Morgan 21 P. Sundhage, J. Ellis Olympics (Gold medal)
2013 16 13 3 0 Abby Wambach Abby Wambach 11 L. Holiday, A. Wambach 6 Tom Sermanni
2014 24 16 5 3 Lauren Holiday Carli Lloyd 15 Carli Lloyd 8 T. Sermanni, J. Ellis
2015 26 20 4 2 Carli Lloyd Carli Lloyd 18 Megan Rapinoe 10 Jill Ellis World Cup (Champions)
2016 25 22 0 3 Tobin Heath C. Lloyd, A. Morgan 17 Carli Lloyd 11 Jill Ellis Olympics (Quarter-finals)
2017 16 12 1 3 Julie Ertz Alex Morgan 7 Megan Rapinoe 5 Jill Ellis
2018 20 18 2 0 Alex Morgan Alex Morgan 18 Megan Rapinoe 12 Jill Ellis
Total 640 501 71 68 1,162 250

Past and present uniforms[edit]

The USWNT has worn a combination of red, white, or blue (the colors of the national flag) in most years, with exceptions including a gold shirt in 2007,[30] a black shirt in 2011,[31] and black trim with neon green socks for the 2015 World Cup. In 2012 the team started wearing the same kit as the U.S. men's team, beginning with the red and white hoop design.[32] Nike became the kit supplier for U.S. Soccer in 1995, with an agreement signed in December 2013 to extend the sponsorship through 2022.[33] The USWNT began wearing two stars as of 1999 to signify their two World Cup titles.[34] A third star was added after their third World Cup title in July 2015.[35]

1986–1996 home
1999 home
1999 away[36]
2005–2007 home
2005–2007 away
2007–2009 home[30]
2007–2009 home[30]
2007–2008 away[30]
2008–2009 away
2010–2011 home[38]
2010–2011 away[39]
2011–2012 home[40]
2011–2012 away[31]
2012–2013 home[32]
2012–2013 away[41]
2013 home[42]
2014– 2015 home[43]
2014–2015 away[44]
2015–2016 home[45]
2015–2016 away[46]
2016– home[47]
2016– away[47]
2017 Third[48]
2019 Home
2019 Away


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  29. ^ All Time Results from FIFA.com
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External links[edit]