- USA women's national team played first ever match on 18 August 1985
- Most successful nation in Women's World Cup history
- Stars and Stripes have won record four Olympic gold medals
For a side with a history as decorated as theirs, USA women’s national team’s first ever international match on 18 August 1985 was not very memorable. The scoreline? Italy 1-0 USA.
The late Mike Ryan took his team to Jesolo on the Italian east coast to play in the four-team Mundialito tournament, or 'Little World Cup'. And while it may look like just another football result, it marked the beginning of one of the dynasties of women’s football.
On the anniversary of the USA women’s national team’s inaugural match, FIFA.com looks back at five of the most memorable moments from their 32-year history.
Inaugural Women's World Cup champions
Just six years after taking to the international stage at the 'Little World Cup', USA made history thousands of miles away in China PR and brought home its big sister. Twelve nations participated in the first ever FIFA Women's World Cup, which took place from 16 to 30 November in 1991. Led by Michelle Akers, April Heinrichs and Carin Jennings, Anson Dorrance's USA defeated Norway 2-1 in the final in front of over 60,000 fans and in the presence of Pele in Guangzhou.
"It was a little disappointing due to the fact that when we came home, no one knew that we won," said Kristine Lilly, USA's all-time caps leader (354), in an interview with FIFATV.
"We came home, and we thought we had just conquered the world, and there was one media person there," said Mia Hamm, USA's all-time assists leader (145). As Lilly and Hamm would discover, that would all change as they built on their success.
Monumental triumph on home soil
After disappointment at Sweden 1995, in which USA finished in third place, the Stars and Stripes' performance on home soil represented the momentum the game needed. Brandi Chastain's winning penalty and ensuing celebration against China PR in the final in front of 90,000 people at the Rose Bowl was the iconic moment women's football was waiting for.
'Miracle in Dresden'
The next two World Cups belonged to the Germans, so at Germany 2011, USA were eager to get back to the top of the podium. En route to the final, Pia Sundhage's USA were staring at an early quarter-final exit as they were 2-1 down late in extra time against Brazil. That's when Abby Wambach, the country's all-time leading scorer (184), came through and produced one of the most dramatic goals in World Cup history, heading in a stoppage-time equaliser to eventually stun Marta and Brazil and win on penalties. Her header gave the team all the momentum they needed and propelled them to the final, where they eventually fell to Japan after a penalty shoot-out.
Crowned in gold at Wembley
One year after heartbreak in Frankfurt, USA earned redemption against Japan in the final of the Olympic Women's Football Tournament at London 2012. An Olympic record 80,203 spectators were at Wembley for the grand finale of the women’s competition, and they were treated to a thrilling spectacle. Carli Lloyd scored a goal in each half to eventually see USA over the line and bring them their record fourth Olympic gold medal in the history of the competition.
— U.S. Soccer WNT (@ussoccer_wnt) August 9, 2017
Leaving a legacy at Canada 2015
With Wembley glory three years behind them, USA met Japan again in the final of Canada 2015 at a sold-out BC Place in Vancouver. Once again it was Lloyd who stole the headlines as she scored an incredible hat-trick in the first half of the final to eventually help Jill Ellis' side to a 5-2 victory. Lloyd's goal from the halfway line will surely live long in the memory of all football fans.
Since they took to the pitch for the first time on that day in Jesolo, the Stars and Stripes have become one of the titans of the women’s game. If history is any indicator, there should much more on their horizon.