BEYOND THE BOOK BLOG

BOOK EXCERPT: The 12 Most Socially Significant National Teamers of All-Time

Published: June 11, 2021
Written by: amy@metagroupmedia.com

When Joanna Lohman and Paul Tukey started conceiving of a soccer book, they never envisioned writing about the Xs and Os of playing the game, or who scored the winning goals and made the greatest saves. From the beginning, they were focused on the impact the women have had on society, as well as the lives of girls and boys. The authors’ thesis was simple: The U.S. Women’s National Team has become the most socially significant sports team in American history.

For the Prologue, the authors kicked off their book with the selection of the 12 most socially impactful players of all-time. Some of the most iconic names and faces are a given: Mia Hamm was women soccer’s first superstar; Abby Wambach became America’s greatest scorer; and out-and-proud Megan Rapinoe may be the most recognizable female athlete on the planet today who’s not named Serena.

Some of the names, however, are much lesser known. With 241 all-time National Teamers to choose from (at the time of the book’s publication), did the authors get their list right? Here’s an exclusive excerpt from Raising Tomorrow’s Champions:

Michelle Akers was one of the first women's soccer players to grace the cover of the Wheaties box (from Page 14 of Raising Tomorrow's Champions)

11 Plus 1 Who Changed the Rules

At the end of 2020, a total of 241 women had appeared in at least one game for the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team, aka the National Team, since its inception in 1985. In addition to winning more World Cups and Olympic gold medals than any other team in the world during that period, the USWNT and its members have recrafted the very definition of what it means to be female in the 21st century. Few have made more of a collective difference than these trendsetters whose successes and challenges are reflected in the pages that follow. And, we submit, every good team needs a captain. We picked one for the ages.

Michelle Akers — Appearing in the National Team’s second-ever international women’s soccer game and its most famous game 14 years later, she quickly became America’s first dominant player, proving we could compete without embarrassment on the world stage.

April Heinrichs — Ferociously and unapologetically competing on the soccer field like no woman before her, she infused the team with a DNA that would span generations, and she later became the National Team’s first full-time female coach.

Mia Hamm — Discovered as a high school freshman and placed on the national team a year later at age 15, she would become America’s first female sports superstar and the reluctant face of soccer the world over.

In 2019, Brandi Chastain unveiled a statue of herself depicting what may still be the most iconic moment in National Team history. Credit: Ringo Chiu/ZUMA Wire/Alamy Live News from page 148 of Raising Tomorrow's Champions

Brandi Chastain — Others scored more goals and drew more fanfare until the instant in 1999 when she became forever known as “the one who took her shirt off” and landed women’s soccer on nearly every front page in America.

Briana Scurry — The first truly transformative yet misunderstood minority player, the self-described “fly in the milk” led the National Team as goalie through some of its greatest triumphs and most controversial moment.

Abby Wambach — A reluctant youth soccer player who dominated on the field despite her lifestyle and inner demons, she became the first Generation X and out team superstar as the sport entered a new century.

Abby Wambach, left, poses with Joanna Lohman, co-author of Raising Tomorrow's Champions

Hope Solo — The girl from the wrong side of the tracks parlayed scholarships and the generosity of strangers into a singularly dominant, yet controversial career as the nation’s female anti-hero.

Carli Lloyd — Originally derided as lazy and unfit, then cut from the National Team with unnerving regularity, the Jersey girl doubled down on effort every single time and became the proverbial lunch pail hero in the process.

Carli Lloyd gets a congratulatory kiss from Hope Solo after the U.S. beat Japan for the Olympic gold medal in 2012. Credit Action Plus Sports / Alamy Stock photo from page 159 of Raising Tomorrow's Champions

Alex Morgan — Late to the pay-to-play soccer culture by modern standards, her knack for scoring big goals in huge games and girl-next-door smile made her the first-ever soccer pin-up model and Generation Y superstar.

Posing for Sports Illustrated helped Alex Morgan become an icon, both on and off the field. Credit: Wenn Rights Ltd. / Alamy Stock Photo from Page 229 of Raising Tomorrow's Champions

Megan Rapinoe — Once known in soccer’s inner circle as a dependable player who showed up most in the biggest games, she emerged in the past decade as the out-and-proud voice of an entire generation of women in their fight for gender and wage equality.

Mallory Pugh — Still in high school when she scored a goal in her first-ever National Team appearance in 2017, she set what some see as a new example by walking away from a full scholarship at UCLA and turning professional at age 18.

Julie Foudy (captain) — Taking the lead from her mentor, Billie Jean King, the first female recipient of a soccer scholarship at Stanford led her fellow National Teamers on the field, and has remained one of the world’s most important voices in sports and gender equality.  

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