The United States women's national team has a relatively short history dating back to just 1986. Over the following three decades, the Americans had a tremendous amount of success, dominating opponents and picking up over 25 total championships. Arranged in a 4-3-3 for this best XI, here are the best eleven ladies (and one super sub for good measure) to ever dawn the red, white and blue.
Let’s start from the back. In considering an all-time best XI, you have to take Hope Solo in goal. You may hate her, you may love her, but you cannot deny her production. She’s made 202 appearances with national team and holds the records for wins (153) and shutouts (102).
Solo’s a highly skillful, athletic and vocal leader who shows up in the biggest moments. Many also know her for the drama she’s been known to create off the field, which has gotten her into a lot of trouble recently, but she’s a spectacular shot-stopper.
If we're ever doing an article on which U.S. Soccer XI we’d want for a reality show, Solo would be our first pick too.
This backline is heavy with ‘99ers. We’ve seen some fantastic outside backs in recent years from Meghan Klingenberg to Kelley O’Hara, but when it comes to work ethic, heart, versatility and that type of hard-nosed defending that ensures no player gets by, Brandi Chastain is your woman.
If you don’t know Brandi Chastain for all these qualities than you know her as the woman who promptly removed her shirt after scoring the penalty to win the 1999 World Cup for the U.S. In addition to 1999, she won another in 1991 and tacked on three Olympic gold medals. Not too shabby.
Not only was Christie Rampone in that 1999 FIFA World Cup squad, she is STILL playing at the highest level of professional soccer today at 41 years of age for NWSL club Sky Blue FC.
She has been an absolute rock in the backline for club and country for 20 years, appearing in five World Cup and four Olympics. Her strength, leadership, ability to read the game and consistency is unparalleled in women’s soccer. She is living proof that age is nothin’ but a number and continues to push the standard and inspire teammates and fans.
Rampone says she'll hang up her boots after this year, but we have a feeling that may not be true.
Overbeck was never the flashy, larger than life player whose face became nationally known, but day in, day out she did her job for the U.S., and she did her job better than anyone else.
How good was Carla Overbeck? Not only did she win four NCAA championships during her time at UNC from 1986-1989, but the team was unbeaten. Yep, for 94 games teams around the country could never get the better of a UNC defense with Overbeck at the helm.
She captained the national team in the 1995 and 1999 World Cups and the 1996 Olympics. She was one of two players to play every single minute of those three tournaments. Though Overbeck was never a household name, her legendary status in U.S. women’s soccer history cannot be overstated.
Who was the other player to play every minute at the 1995 and 1999 World Cups and 1996 Olympics? Joy Fawcett.
She would also go on to play every single minute in the 2000 Olympics and at the 2003 World Cup. She was not only tireless and sturdy in defense but a potent offensive threat. She's the highest scoring defender in USWNT history. Fawcett finished her career with a whopping 239 caps for the national team.
Dubbed the “Queen of Caps”, Lilly absolutely shattered the record for national team appearances by a man or woman with 354 (including 332 starts) in a career that spanned 23 years. And she made the most of those cpas, scoring 130 goals (third all-time) and notching 106 assists (second all-time).
As a midfielder, those stats are insane. Without Lilly's goalline clearance in 1999, we would never have had the Brandi Chastain moment to talk about. Her longevity was a reflection of an unwaivering dedication to her country, and she proved to be the lifeblood for a transitioning team when Hamm, Foudy and the other members of the golden generation retired.
She had the mane of a lion and the heart and tenacity of one when it came to the national team. You did not want to be in the way of Michelle Akers on the field. She found a way to get to every ball, was a beast in the air and could deliver the sorts of tackles that left players hesitant to come in her vicinity. The midfield was her domain.
Akers won all the medals of her contemporaries but even more impressive was the conditions she had to fight through along the way. She battled Chronic Fatigue Syndrome during the 1999 run, an illness which threatened to end her soccer career. It’s no wonder Pele named her — only one of two women — to the FIFA 100, a list of the 125 greatest living soccer players.
The second most prolific goalscoring midfielder ever for the USWNT, Foudy was a star from a young age and continued to burn brighter as the years went on.
She was a two-time All-American in high school and a four-time All-American in college at Stanford. In the midst of picking up her degree, Foudy won the World Cup in 1991. She was pivotal in 1999 and when the team picked up gold medals in Atlanta and Athens.
Foudy co-captained the side from 1991-2000 and stood alone at the helm from 2000 until her retirement in 2004.
184 goals in 255 appearances — there’s a reason President Obama and millions of other Americans refer to Abby Wambach as the GOAT.
At 5’11'', with the physicality of a football player in the red zone, a lack of concern for limb/body and a nose for goal that even Lionel Messi would be proud of, Wambach was a phenom unlike any the women’s game had ever witnessed.
Dudes play like Abby Wambach. The striker had the kind of charisma and drive that made her an instant fan favorite and the face of U.S. women’s soccer for nearly a decade.
Wambach’s 122nd-minute equalizing goal, the latest goal EVER scored in a match, during the quarterfinal of the 2011 World Cup against Brazil will be remembered as one of most exciting moments in American sports history. The GOAT did it all in her career: one NCAA Championship (Florida’s first and only), one World Cup, two Olympic gold medals, one FIFA World Player of the Year award and one record as the USWNT's all-time leading scorer.
Some of the younger players and those unfamiliar to the women’s game may not have heard of Tiffeny Milbrett, but she’s a forward anyone would want on their team with eyebrow-raising stats.
Though she stood at just 5’2'', Milbrett had an uncanny way of finding the back of the net. She was a stud during her time at the University of Portland and you can find her name all over the NCAA record books. Milbrett continued that form during her 11-year career with the women’s national team, racking up 100 goals in 206 appearances, and she currently ranks in the top five for goals scored and assists.
Basketball has Michael Jordan. Boxing has Muhammad Ali. Women’s soccer has Mia Hamm — that’s how transformative this woman was to the sport. With shy confidence and ridiculous consistency when it came to banging away goals and setting up her teammates, Hamm helped to put women’s soccer on the map.
Who won four national champions with UNC? Mia Hamm. Who was the first woman to win the FIFA World Player of the Year award? Mia Hamm (she would win another one too). Who was the other woman to be named to the FIFA 100 alongside Michelle Akers? Mia Hamm. Who is all-time points leader in USWNT history? Mia Hamm.
It's crazy to think that Hamm retired at 31, a full five years earlier than the age Abby Wambach retired. One can only imagine how much more damage she’d have done if she’d played a few more years, but as one of the most decorated, popular and prolific players the game and American sports has ever seen, I don’t think she lives with too many regrets.
Three years ago, Carli Lloyd wasn't even a name most recognized on the USWNT. Fast forward to today, Lloyd has become a household name and will go down as one of the best to ever wear the jersey.
The magnificent No. 10 has been a part of the team since 2005 and has picked up a lot of hardware in her 12 years. Her middle name is Anne but during her career, she might as well have changed it to “Clutch”. Lloyd scored the game-winning goal in the final of the 2008 Olympics to give the U.S. the gold, and she then put on a similar display in the 2012 Olympic final against Japan.
You may also know something about Lloyd’s 2015 World Cup final display…does a hat trick in the first 16 minutes and a wonder goal from the half way line ring a bell?
She has gone on to win the 2015 and 2016 FIFA World Player of the Year awards and is currently the highest-scoring midfielder in the history of the national team. It’s scary to say that the 34-year old is showing no signs of slowing down.