One of the reasons American women's soccer has become popular over the years is because of its players. The women on this list are one of the main reasons women's soccer in the U.S. is popular and remains popular. These ladies blazed a trail that still burns today in the sport.
1. Mia Hamm - Forward
Probably the most celebrated women's soccer player of all-time. When you talk about U.S. Women's Soccer, the first person that probably comes to mind is Mia Hamm. Hamm won FIFA's Player of the Year honors in 2001 and 2002, won two Women's World Cups and gold medals, but her biggest contribution to the sport may be being an ambassador of the game. Hamm was the first major star in not only in America, but around the globe as well. How big of a star is Hamm? She was one of only two women named by FIFA as one of the 125 greatest living soccer players of all-time. Now, that's big.
2. Brandi Chastain - Midfielder
Chastain's numbers may not be as impressive as the other ladies on this list, but nevertheless, her impact on the game was huge. Chastain's game-winning goal against China in the 1999 Women's World Cup made little girls like Alex Morgan - on this list as well - want to play soccer. Chastain's contribution is kind of like Joe Namath's impact on football. He didn't put up the best numbers, but his win in the Super Bowl changed the game. Same with Chastain and the World Cup. And who can forget that celebration...
3. Alex Morgan - Striker
The new kid on the block, Morgan is the new hope in U.S. Women's Soccer. Like Abby Wambach and Kristin Lilly, Morgan was a very good college player. But because of an injury back in 2007, she wasn't able to play for the U20 U.S. team until 2008. When she was able to compete the following year in the U20 FIFA World Cup, she scored four goals, including a game-winning goal that give the U.S. gold in that tournament. Morgan was also part of the 2011 U.S. Women's Soccer team that finished second in the World Cup, and she was part of the 2012 Women's Olympic team. Morgan's 2012 was really her coming out party. She led the U.S. in goals (28), multi-goal games (9), assists (21) and points (77). Because of her efforts, she was named U.S. Women's Soccer Player of the Year in 2012, Player of the Year by CONCACAF in 2013 , and she was the youngest player ever to be named to U.S. Soccer's All-Time Women's National Team Best XI.
4. Abby Wambach - Forward
Like teammate Kristin Lilly, Abby Wambach was a star in college at the University of Florida. She helped her teammates break the stranglehold that North Carolina had over women's college soccer by defeating the Tarheels in the national championship game back in 1998. As part of the US National Team, she was part of three World Cup teams and has second and third place finishes under her belt. But the most impressive thing that Wambach has accomplished is that she has scored more international goals (167) than any man or woman in soccer.
5. Kristin Lilly - Midfielder
Lilly was a star before she even became a professional. As a player with the University of North Carolina, she lead them to a national championship all four years she was there. Lilly also was the first woman to go to five World Cups, and has played the most international games (352) of any American woman. Lilly is the most decorated player on this list winning, having won Player of the Year in college, those aforementioned four national championships, two World Cups, and two gold medals.
6. Michelle Akers - Midfielder
Before there was Mia, Brandi, Abby, Kristin or Alex, there was Michelle. Michelle Akers played for the U.S. National Team for 15 years from 1985-2000. During that time, she help the U.S. win a gold medal at the 1996 Olympics, was part of the 1991 and 1999 teams that won the Women's World Cup, and she was named FIFA's Female Player of the Century. Akers laid the foundation for the popularity of the sport in this country.