United States women's national soccer team

Nicknames: The Yanks, The Stars and Stripes

Association: United States Soccer Federation

Confederation: CONCACAF (North America)

The United States women's national soccer team (USWNT) is currently (2011) ranked first in the FIFA Women's World Rankings. The team has won the World Cup two times (1991 and 1999) and has three Olympic Gold Medals (1996, 2004 and 2008). They also won the prestigious Algarve Cup in 2000, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2011.

Premier

The United States women's national soccer team played their inaugural match on August 18, 1985.

International break-through

The team caught the attention of the rest of the soccer playing world in 1999 when they won the 1999 World Cup by beating China 5-4 in a penalty shootout.

On July 10, 1999, over 90,000 spectators gathered at the RoseBowl stadium in Pasadena, California to watch the match between China and the U.S. The score was 0-0 at full time, and the tie was not resolved during extra time either. A penalty kick shootout commenced, and after Briana Scurry's save of China's third kick the score was 4-4. Brandi Chastain was the only one left to shoot, and she managed to score and secure a World Cup victory for the United States.

Kit

The home kit is all white with black piping, although historically blue shorts have been used occasionally. The away kit is all black with red piping. The United States women's national soccer team wears two stars above the U.S. crest since they have won two world championships.

Nike manufactures the kits from polyester produced from plastic bottles that are turned into DRI-FIT yarn instead of ending up in landfills. Up to eight bottles are used to make a jersey.

Trivia

The United States women's national soccer team was selected the U.S. Olympic Committee's Team of the Year in both 1997 and 1999.

In March 2004, Mia Hamm and Michelle Akers were the only women as well as the only persons from the United States to be included in the FIFA 100, a list over the 125 greatest living soccer players chosen by Pelé as a part of FIFA's 100 year celebrations.

Professional female soccer in the United States

The success of the United States women's national soccer team has not translated into success for women's professional soccer in the country and the professional leagues have been fraught with problems.

Founded in the year 2000, Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA) was a soccer league where all players were paid professionals. Shortly after the end of its third season, the league suspended operations in 2003 after making cumulative losses of roughly 100 million USD.

A new professional league named Women's Professional Soccer (WPS) was founded in 2009. According to an official statement made by its CEO Tonya Antonucci, WPS will take a local, grass roots approach and be focused on slow and steady growth, unlike the WUSA which employed a top-down model. WPS has a close relationship with the top men's professional league (MLS) and the two leagues work together in areas such as employees, facilities and marketing.