Women's Football

Four record-breaking decades with Kristine Lilly

Kristine Lilly scoring at the FIFA Women's World Cup.
© imago images
  • Kristine Lilly made history ten years ago today
  • She became the first player ever to represent her country in four different decades
  • Lilly reflects on her favourite memories of each decade with FIFA.com

Kristine Lilly is a living legend. Not only does she hold the esteemed title of being the most capped international player of all time, male or female (354), but on this day in 2010 she became the first person in international football history to represent her country in four different decades.

FIFA.com caught up with Lilly to look at each of those four decades to see which memories stood out most for this remarkable player.

Kristine Lilly of the U.S. Women's National Team

1980-1989

"Obviously the one memory that stands out for me was in 1987. That was my first year on the team and my first game, which was actually in China on a trip and I scored a goal, too, so it was a combination of things. With the nerves and being young, I wasn’t sure if I belonged there, but when I scored a goal, I thought, ‘Maybe I do belong here?’ That was something memorable for me. We were there for a couple of games. We played against China and another club team there. We didn’t even have a World Cup in sight, so we were just there on a trip. That was my first tour with the national team."

1990-1999

“I don’t think I could pick just one memory here. There were a lot of firsts for the US women’s national team. There was the first time there was World Cup here, and there was the first time soccer was in the Olympics. Those two big events were huge for women’s soccer, and to be a part of it and to win both of them was pretty unbelievable. I remember from 1991 when no one really knew the World Cup took place to 1996 when they still didn’t cover soccer as much but the world started to pay attention to women’s soccer then.

"That was a springboard that led into 1999 - I can’t forget ’99! Wow, ’91, ’96 and ’99 - those were great years! Let’s forget the rest of the decades! There was one mishap in ’95, but that’s about it. We hosted and won the World Cup in ’99, so the 90s were great, I can’t complain about anything. Women’s soccer got on the board. The US were two-time world champions and gold medallists and the game really started to grow. And I was only 28 years old by the end of that decade!"

Forward Kristine Lilly #13 of USA dribbles the ball against Faye White of England during the quarter final of the Women's World Cup 2007 at Tianjin Olympic Center Stadium
© Getty Images

2000-2009

“We start off this decade with a loss in the Olympics in Sydney. That was heartbreaking and probably one of the hardest losses of my career. I still feel it today. We lost in sudden death over time to Norway. We have 2003 the World Cup when China were originally supposed to host but due to the SARS epidemic, we hosted, and we lost that. In 2007 back in China for the World Cup, we lose that. Going from the 90s to this decade is a bit of a bummer.

"But obviously we’re continuing to have Olympics and World Cups and we continued to grow. It was in this decade I reached my 200th and 300th cap milestones. Everyone wanted me to reach 400, but I knew for sure I wouldn’t. So for me the best memories in this decade were the milestones and hitting the 300 mark was kind of a ‘wow’ moment and I realised I had been playing the game for awhile, but also contributing a lot to be able to see our progress on the field and help my team be successful."

2010-2019

“I had one little year where I was sporadically involved. For me it was just after I had my first child and I went back and played in the professional league in the US. I didn’t get called back in right away and I thought it could be it. And then I remember getting the call from Pia Sundhage and she invited me into a camp and I was like, ‘Alright!’ No matter how old you are or how many years you’ve been playing in the team, when you get that call, you still have a sense of pride and you can’t say no."

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