Brent St. Germain: Queens of the pitch
Every four years, the Olympics Games can help United States athletes become household names.
When the Summer Olympics rolled around in the past, swimmers Michael Phelps and Mark Spitz and track and field performers Carl Lewis and Florence Griffith Joyner all became well known.
The same holds true during the Winter Games, as speed skaters Bonnie Blair and Eric Heiden and the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” men’s hockey team captured the imagination of the country.
The same can be said about the World Cup.
Every four years, the United States becomes a soccer hotbed as we cheer on the red, white and blue for the World Cup.
Because of the World Cup, we now know the names of our country’s greatest men’s soccer stars, such as Alexi Lalas, Landon Donovan and Tim Howard.
But when it comes to finding the United States’ biggest stars on the pitch, you have to look no further than the women’s game.
The 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup proved that the United States is a true soccer powerhouse. Sunday’s 5-2 win over Japan gave the U.S. women its third World Cup title, the most of any country. The U.S. also won titles in 1991 and 1999.
When the United States won the first Women’s World Cup in 1991, few people followed the tournament, so that team’s top players — Michelle Akers, Carin Jennings and April Heinrichs — went relatively unnoticed.
But their achievements helped pave the way for the growth of women’s soccer.
Five years after that tournament, women’s soccer was added as a sport at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.
The 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup is when the sport exploded around the country, especially since it was held in the United States.
As the host country, the United States didn’t disappoint and won its second World Cup in dramatic fashion with a win over China on penalty kicks. Brandi Chastain’s game-winning goal will always be remembered, as she celebrated by taking off her jersey and falling to her knees wearing in a sports bra while clenching her fists and flexing her arms.
In addition to Chastain, the 1999 team had other memorable players, such as Mia Hamm, Briana Scurry, Carla Overbeck and Akers.
Fast forward 16 years, and now, we have a new group of ladies that will leave their mark on the sports world.
Although it was not as dramatic as the 1999 title, the 2015 squad has its share of memorable athletes.
Carli Lloyd stole the show with a hat trick (three goals) in the opening 16 minutes, but she was not the only star. The United States’ roster was filled with many players that will leave a lasting image, such as Alex Morgan, Hope Solo, Lauren Holiday, Tobin Heath and Abby Wambach, who was playing in her fourth and final Women’s World Cup.
Sunday’s win proved that the United States remains the country to beat in women’s soccer.
In seven Women’s World Cups, the United States has three championships, one runner-up finish and three third-place finishes.
What’s even more impressive are the United States’ finishes in women’s soccer at the Summer Olympics. Since it was added as a sport in 1996, the United States won four gold medals and one silver medals.
All of this proves that the United States women are faring much better in soccer than their male counterparts, whose best finishes were third in the 1930 World Cup and eighth in 1956 Summer Olympics.
When it comes to international soccer, the United States women are definitely the queens of the pitch.
Brent St. Germain is the sports editor of The Houma (La.) Courier and The Thibodaux (La.) Daily Comet. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.