Throwback: The Rise of Women’s Soccer in America
The 1999 Women’s World Cup was the first to captivate an American audience. But it wasn’t the first Women’s World Cup — that happened eight years earlier. And barely anyone paid attention.
Excited about watching the World Cup this summer? Did you know that the USA won FIFA’s inaugural women’s tournament in 1991? In the pivotal moment of our national women’s team seeking gender equality and equal pay amidst a world of #MeToo, it is important to know our humble beginnings.
Link to Listen to the Throwback Podcast
Just weeks before the FIFA 2019 Women’s World Cup kicks off in France, Sports Illustrated’s new podcast brings the rich history of American Women’s Soccer to fans. Sports Illustrated’s podcast, Throwback focuses on the untold stories behind several of the richest moments in sports, starting off with a focus on the first-ever Women’s World Cup in 1991 — the foundation for the famous 1999 team that would win the World Cup.
When I picked the U.S. women’s national team, the first player I selected as a role model for how we were going to train was Heinrichs. She was like a shark with blood in the water.Anson Dorrance – former U.S. Women’s National Team Head Coach is now the women’s Head Coach at the University of North Carolina. Dorrance has one of the most successful coaching records in the history of athletics.
Throwback is hosted by senior writer Grant Wahl, who spoke with all of the major players — Mia Hamm, Michelle Akers, Julie Foudy, Kristine Lilly and the team’s former coach, Anson Dorrance many, many more about the early days of the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) and it’s early, fragmented beginning with no funding.
These are the moments that forever changed women’s soccer in America, even if most soccer buffs have no idea of what happened almost three decades ago.
This was the inaugural FIFA Women’s World Cup. We were the Champions.
Yes, coached by Anson Dorrance, the USA won the 1991 Women’s World Cup — it was celebrated and forgotten.
Our collective memory seems to start with the 1999 Women’s World Cup, and USA’s victory.
“There is this perception that we just bulldozed our way onto the scene in 1999 and it is simply not true.”Grant Wahl
The ’99ers, as they are often referred to include Mia Hamm, the then darling goal scorer of the team and Brandi Chastain who will be ever famous for ripping off her jersey to reveal a sports bra that would not even turn heads today at Starbucks but made headlines nearly 30 years ago.
While Chastain scored the winning goal for the U.S. at the Women’s World Cup, the technical accomplishment was overshadowed by those iconic photos capturing the moment. But what was it like before? Who were the role models that paved the path for today’s Mallory Pugh and Alex Morgan?
Was the ’91 squad taken seriously or treated
Now, Throwback is the cool, narrative podcast series unravels the origins of the U.S. Women’s National Team and explores what women’s soccer was like before the fame of the ’99ers and examines the ’91 team that started it all.
An avid sports journalist, Sports Illustrated’s Wahl has covered decades of soccer but even he knew little about the 1991 Women’s World Cup.
“It is important to know where we come from,” said Wahl. “This podcast explores where we have come from and how U.S. Soccer treated our USWNT. Back then, there was no collective bargaining agreement and it was hard for players to make ends meet.”
“It was hard to afford to play.”Grant Wahl
How did the women’s team — without any real funding or any international wins — become the tournament’s
In the episode, Dorrance talks about how his player on the 1991 World Cup Squad, April Heinrich, paved the way for a winning culture that did not apologize for being highly competitive.
One of the biggest adjustments for a woman coming into a competitive environment is she comes in with a cultural expectation of genuflecting to everyone around her. And this was not Heinrichs. She competed from the first second of practice until the end.Anson Dorrance talking about his team captain Heinrichs.
New episodes, five of them in all, will drop every Thursday in the weeks leading up to the 2019 Women’s World Cup. The podcastThrowback will be available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, and a digital hub on SI.com.
Related Article: Throwback: The Rise of Women’s Soccer in America