Women's association football, usually known as women's football or women's soccer, is the most prominent team sport played by women around the globe. It is played at the professional level in numerous countries throughout the world and 176 national teams participate internationally.
The history of women's football has seen major competitions being launched at both the national and international levels. Women's football has faced many struggles throughout its history. Although its first golden age occurred in the United Kingdom in the early 1920s, with matches attracting large crowds (one match achieved over 50,000 spectators), The Football Association initiated a ban in 1921 that disallowed women's football games from taking place on the grounds used by its member clubs. This ban remained in effect until July 1971.
The 1991 FIFA Women's World Cup was the inaugural FIFA Women's World Cup, the world championship for women's national association football teams. It took place in Guangdong, China from 16 November to 30 November 1991. FIFA, football's international governing body selected China as host nation as Guangdong had hosted a prototype world championship three years earlier, the 1988 FIFA Women's Invitation Tournament. Matches were played in the state capital, Guangzhou, as well as in Foshan, Jiangmen and Zhongshan. The competition was sponsored by Mars, Incorporated. With FIFA still reluctant to bestow their "World Cup" brand, the tournament was officially known as the 1st FIFA World Championship for Women's Football for the M&M's Cup.
It was won by the United States, whose captain April Heinrichs formed a forward line dubbed the "triple–edged sword" with Carin Jennings and Michelle Akers-Stahl. Jennings was named player of the tournament while Akers-Stahl's ten goals won the Golden Shoe. The United States beat Norway 2–1 in the final in front of a crowd of 65,000 people at Guangzhou's Tianhe Stadium. Total attendance was 510,000, an average per match of 19,615. In the opening match at the same stadium, Norway had been defeated 4–0 by hosts China. Goalkeeper Zhong Honglian, of China, posted the first official "clean sheet" in the tournament.
Solo warming up prior to a friendly match against Canada on September 17th, 2011.
Hope Amelia Solo (born July 30, 1981) is an American soccer goalkeeper and a two-time Olympic gold medalist from Richland, Washington. She has been goalkeeping for the United States women's national soccer team since 2000. After playing at the collegiate level for the University of Washington, she played professionally for the Philadelphia Charge in the Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA). When the WUSA folded after her first season, she traveled to Europe to play for the top division leagues in Sweden and France. From 2009 to 2011, she played in the Women's Professional Soccer (WPS) for Saint Louis Athletica, Atlanta Beat and magicJack. After the WPS ceased operations in early 2012, she played for the Seattle Sounders in the W-League. She currently plays for Seattle Reign FC in the National Women's Soccer League, the top division of women's soccer in the United States.
Solo is regarded as one of the top goalkeepers in the world. She was the starting goalkeeper for the majority of the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup and helped lead the U.S. national team to the semifinals having given up only two goals in four games, including three consecutive shutouts. After a controversial move made by head coach Greg Ryan to bench Solo in favor of veteran goalkeeper Brianna Scurry for the semifinal, in which the United States was defeated 4–0 by Brazil, Solo made headlines with post-game remarks that resulted in many teammates shunning her. With dedication, tough-mindedness and skill, she rebounded to help the United States win gold medals at the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics. During the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup, her exceptional skill was highlighted especially during a quarter-final match against Brazil, in which the U.S. defeated Brazil in penalty kicks. Although the team lost to Japan in an intensely close match that ended in penalties, Solo received the Golden Glove award for best goalkeeper as well as the Bronze Ball award for her overall performance at the tournament.
Following her performance at the 2011 World Cup, Solo participated in the television show, Dancing with the Stars and posed for various magazines, most notably the "Body Issue" of ESPN The Magazine. After the 2012 London Olympics, where she received her second Olympic gold medal, she published her best-selling autobiography Solo: A Memoir of Hope.