FourFourTwo's top 25 players in U.S. women's national team history: 10-6
10. Christie Rampone
The measure of Christie Rampone’s great career isn’t solely in its longevity, but in her ability to play such an important role at such a high level across so many years.
Rampone is the second-most capped player in U.S. history, with 311 appearances and 272 starts, marks bested only by Kristine Lilly. Across a career that spans three decades and two millennia, the center back has won three Olympic gold medals and two World Cup titles. Rampone was a dependable part of the spine of the U.S. women’s teams across five World Cup tournaments – 1999 (playing sparingly in that one), 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015 – as well as four Olympic tournaments – 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012.
Rampone calls herself more of a quiet leader, but she was entrusted with the captain’s armband for seven years and lifted the World Cup trophy last summer as the first 40-year-old to play in a Women’s World Cup. It was the culmination of a national team career that started back in 1997 when the two-sport star at Monmouth was first capped, switching from forward to the back line. U.S. rosters would almost always include her name for the next 18 years, save for brief absences due to an ACL tear in 2001 and a pair of pregnancies. Rampone’s nine world championship appearances for the U.S. is the most of any player, and at 41 years of age Rampone continues to play in the NWSL with Sky Blue FC, a team she helped guide to a title as a player-coach - while pregnant - in 2009 in the WPS.
-- Paul Tenorio (@PaulTenorio)
9. Julie Foudy
Julie Foudy was going to be a doctor until she found her true calling as a midfielder and voice of the U.S. women’s national team. A member of the U.S. team since 1988, Foudy emerged as a starter in time for the 1991 Women’s World Championship, partnering in central midfield with Shannon Higgins (Cirovski). Her emergence as a creative, attacking midfielder provided the perfect complement to Higgins and enabled head coach Anson Dorrance to move Michelle Akers out of the midfield to the front line, where she scored 10 goals in the 1991 competition.
Foudy, with her galloping style and constant movement, remained as the USA’s midfield engine for another 13 years. A member of the United States Soccer Hall of Fame, she served as the team’s captain for a dozen years, scored 45 goals and handed out 55 assists in 272 appearances. She ranks fourth all-time in caps (272) and third in starts (260). She played in four World Cups, winning two (’91 and ’99) and four Olympic Games, winning gold in 1996 and 2004.
A former president of the Women’s Sports Foundation, Foudy’s value to the program was not limited to the field, though. Keenly aware of the impact the U.S. women’s team could and should have on society in general and young girls in particular, she was instrumental in working for improvements in conditions, pay and treatment of the women’s team. Seen today on ESPN, Foudy has become an important and relevant voice for women’s athletics.
-- Tim Nash (@TimNash07)
8. Tiffeny Milbrett
The diminutive striker from Portland was a pivotal figure for the U.S. women, scoring 100 times in 206 appearances -- fifth-best goal total in program history -- and forming over a half-decade with Mia Hamm the greatest frontline partnership in the history of the women's game. Milbrett, just 5-foot-2 but powerfully built with a low center of gravity, was an explosive and ceaselessly inventive forward who scored some of the Americans' biggest goals in a career that spanned three World Cups and two Olympics.
Her achievements are more impressive in that she was something of an outsider on the U.S. squad, a Clive Charles acolyte who chafed under tactical strictures imposed by Tony DiCicco and April Heinrichs, the U.S. coaches during the bulk of her international career, and rarely felt comfortable within the group. Milbrett had a different background than the vast majority of her teammates -- she came from a working-class, single-parent home -- and she reflected that background with the grit that accompanied the beauty of her game. She might have been the Yanks' best take-on attacker, a dizzying dribbler who could destroy defenses one-on-one or combine to create goals. Her 64 assists are No. 4 on the all-time U.S. list.
Milbrett was a three-time All-American at the University of Portland, equaling Mia Hamm's then-NCAA record of 103 goals, and became a regular with the U.S. in 1995, when she netted three World Cup goals after replacing injured Michelle Akers in the lineup. She scored 71 goals with 42 assists over the next five years, tallying the winner in the gold-medal victory over China at the Atlanta Olympics and a team-best three at the 1999 World Cup, and her last-touch-of-regulation header sent the gold-medal final against Norway to overtime at the 2000 Sydney Games. She was the WUSA's inaugural MVP and Golden Boot winner and closed her pro career with a WPSL championship.
-- Scott French (@ScottJFrench)
7. Hope Solo
One of the more controversial players in U.S. women’s national team history is also unequivocally the best goalkeeper to put on the uniform.
Solo has more appearances (198), starts (188), wins (151) and shutouts (100) than any other goalkeeper in U.S. women’s national team history. More than half of her starts have been shutouts, a remarkable record, and Solo is the first goalkeeper in history – man or woman – to register 100 shutouts in international competition. With Solo in net, the U.S. has won two Olympic gold medals and a World Cup title.
A high school and college All-American, Solo has stood out as one of the country’s best shotstoppers her entire career. Though she isn’t always called upon to make save after save, Solo quickly developed a reputation of stepping up to make the big stop when needed most. Her remarkable save in the 2008 Olympic gold medal game against Brazil, for example, or her numerous stops in the 2012 Olympic final against Japan that helped lock up the gold for the U.S.
Solo has had some off-field controversy to go along with her on-field brilliance. She was benched during the 2007 World Cup and her postgame comments caused her to be temporarily out of the team, but she would return eight months later ahead of the 2008 Olympics. Since then, Solo has been the world standard in net. She won the Golden Glove at the 2011 and 2015 World Cups, and has 10 shutouts in 17 career World Cup games.
Solo again was at the center of controversy in recent years, including a domestic violence allegation. Despite those issues, Solo has remained a star for the U.S. She has 12 shutouts in 14 appearances in 2016, and will guide the U.S. once again at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, where she has a chance to build on her legacy.
6. Carli Lloyd
Like others on this list, Carli Lloyd’s career nearly became defined by a U.S. style conundrum, one the team fell into starting in the mid-to-late 2000s. Wedged into a pure central midfield role, Lloyd became known for her opportunism, whether it be reading play to amass prolific goal totals or seizing the spotlight of Olympic finals.
Even then, four and eight years ago, Lloyd projected as a Top 25 all-time player, but at some point, things changed. At some point, Lloyd’s contributions became less of an added weapon and more of a focal point. As the U.S. moved away from the forward-dependent approach of the early 2010s, it became clear that Lloyd was not only the team’s best player but potentially, among the litany of legends that define this list, one of the program’s best ever.
No moment better highlighted that than the 2015 World Cup final. By then, Lloyd had already established her reputation as a big-game player, scoring winning goals in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics gold-medal matches. She’d also scored winners in the U.S.’ two previous matches, knockout-round wins over China and Germany. Against Japan, though, Lloyd produced one of soccer’s more remarkable individual performances. Scoring three times in the final’s first 16 minutes, including a goal from just short of the center line, Lloyd led the U.S. in a 5-2 rout, delivering the program’s first World Cup title since 1999.
For years, teammates have marveled at Lloyd’s technique, mentality and dedication, but it’s only now, in the latter stages of her career, that those qualities are being fully leveraged. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the U.S. looks more impressive than it has in a years. Build to your best player’s strengths -- take advantage of a midfielder who has delivered 88 international goals -- and you’ll likely produce your best possible product.
She’s the current FIFA World Player of the Year, and after a stretch of accomplishments that rivals any players’ peak, she’s earned her place near the top of this list. Nobody saw it coming 10 years ago -- except maybe her and her trainer, James Galanis -- but Carli Lloyd has made herself into one of the best American midfielders, ever.
-- Richard Farley (@richardfarley)