FourFourTwo's top 25 players in U.S. women's national team history: 15-11
15. Brandi Chastain
Brandi Chastain is, of course, most famous for her shirt-twirling celebration after converting the game-winning penalty kick in the 1999 World Cup final. Her other 191 international appearances didn’t land her on the cover or national magazines, but were noteworthy nonetheless. She began her international career in 1988 as a forward, used mainly as a backup. She scored her first five goals in a 12-0 win over Mexico in World Cup qualifying, coming on as a second-half sub and scoring five in a row.
Known for her creativity and flair with the ball, Chastain helped redefine the role of U.S. defenders from destroyers to creators.
She was left off the 1995 World Cup roster and went to play in Japan with the goal of returning to the U.S. lineup. Coach Tony DiCicco invited her into camp prior to the ’96 Olympics to try her at defender, and Chastain went on to play 175 more times for the U.S. Known for her creativity and flair with the ball, Chastain helped redefine the role of U.S. defenders from destroyers to creators. With her joining the backline, teaming with Carla Overbeck and Joy Fawcett, the USA became a more technical, complete team. From ’96 through ’99, the U.S went 78-5-6.
Married to Santa Clara University women’s soccer coach Jerry Smith, Chastain remains as one of the more popular figures in women’s sports, both with fans and the media. She has appeared on Celebrity Jeopardy, a celebrity edition of the cooking show “Chopped” and as a soccer commentator on TV. She continues to use her celebrity to speak out on social issues. She has volunteered to donate her brain for research into chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), and she has recently become a spokesperson for AbbVIe, which raises awareness of Crohn’s disease, from which her 10-year-old son suffers.
Elected to the Soccer Hall of Fame in 2016, Chastain retired in 2005 after earning two World Cup titles and two Olympic gold medals.
-- Tim Nash (@TimNash07)
14. Alex Morgan
Having just turned 27 years old, Alex Morgan already has an Olympic gold medal and World Cup title to her name. Her speed can beat most back lines over the top, but she’s increasingly technical 1-v-1 and she’s a pure goal-scorer. Her 67 career international tallies already rank eighth all-time.
Morgan made her senior international debut in 2010, when she scored what is quietly one of the most important goal in program history – and one which few people saw or will remember.
After suffering a shocking defeat in World Cup qualifying – the team’s only to date – the No. 1-ranked U.S. played Italy for the 16th and final berth to the 2011 World Cup. Morgan entered the first-leg match in Italy in the 86th minute, with the match scoreless, and found net eight minutes later, in stoppage time, to give the Americans a needed aggregate lead heading back to the States. Such late-match heroics produced the term “Alex Morgan Time.”
Morgan is the next of kin in a long line of legendary U.S. forwards which includes Mia Hamm and Abby Wambach. In 2012, Morgan joined Hamm as the only player to score 20 goals and assist 20 in a calendar year; Morgan had 28 and 21, respectively, and none more famous than the game-winner against Canada in the Olympic semifinal, the latest goal ever scored in a FIFA competition (123rd minute) in the most epic match the sport has seen.
Now, as the U.S. women enter the Rio 2016 Olympics as a team in transition, Morgan is a team leader, a veteran and the most recognized American soccer player. Injuries plagued her last few years, but 2016 is already her most productive year (11 goals) since 2012. Adding a couple more trophies – don’t forget she has two club championships, too – and big goals would cement her place even higher up this list.
-- Jeff Kassouf (@JeffKassouf)
13. Carin Gabarra
The blond Californian they called “crazy legs” brought something unique to the U.S. when Anson Dorrance brought her aboard in 1987, and the Yanks' success in 1991 and the years that followed are unimaginable without her contributions. Carin Gabarra (nee Jennings) won the Golden Ball as MVP at the 1991 Women's World Championship (now the called the Women’s World Cup), played a vital role as the U.S. finished third four years later, and closed her career with a gold medal at the Atlanta Olympics.
Gabarra, who scored 56 goals with 48 assists in 119 international appearances, might have been the best 1-v-1 player the Yanks have employed. She was mesmerizing on the ball, using feints and cuts to destroy defenders on serpentine runs, and was the most stylish of U.S. players at that first World Cup, offering a crafty contrast on the left side of the “triple-edged sword” with Michelle Akers and April Heinrichs.
She scored 226 goals at Palos Verdes High School outside Los Angeles, was a three-time All-American at UC Santa Barbara -- her 102 college goals, now fourth on the all-time list, were an NCAA record until Mia Hamm came along -- and made her mark immediately with the U.S., scoring a hat trick in their first big competitive match, a romp over Japan in a 1988 event that led to the Women's World Cup's establishment. Her greatest moment was in the 1991 championship, when she took over the Yanks' opener with Sweden, tallying twice in a 3-2 upset of the Scandinavian giant, and netted a hat trick in the first 33 minutes of a 5-2 semifinal romp over tournament favorite Germany. In 2000, she followed Heinrichs as the second female player inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame.
She's been married since 1992 to Jim Gabarra, a former U.S. national-teamer and 1988 Olympian who coaches the NWSL's Washington Spirit, and she has been head coach of the Naval Academy's women's team since 1991, posting 21 successive winning seasons and last year claiming her 300th victory.
-- Scott French (@ScottJFrench)
12. Briana Scurry
Law school’s loss was the U.S. national team’s gain.
Briana Scurry wrapped up her career at the University of Massachusetts with a loss to North Carolina in the 1993 national semifinals, thinking she had played her last meaningful game before embarking on a legal career. UNC’s Mia Hamm walked up to her after the game to say she played well. And Hamm’s coach, U.S. coach Anson Dorrance, had noticed as well.
The next spring, Scurry went to Portugal to start for the United States in the Algarve Cup. By the end of the year, she had played every minute of World Cup qualifiers and conceded only five goals in 12 games, including shutouts of Sweden, China and Canada.
Scurry was the starter in the 1995 World Cup and played every minute for the 1996 gold-medalists and the 1999 world champions. After losing her starting spot on the U.S. team, she regained her form in the WUSA as the formidable netminder of the Atlanta Beat, winning the honor as the league’s top keeper in 2003.
Her WUSA play set her up for one more dramatic run with her longtime national teammates, winning the 2004 gold medal with extra-time victories over Germany and Brazil.
After wrapping up her playing career with the Washington Freedom in WPS, she eased into a career of commentary and public speaking, offering powerful talks on her experiences with concussions and her path to Olympic and World Cup gold.
-- Beau Dure (@duresport)
11. Carla Overbeck
To beat the North Carolina Tar Heels in the late 1980s, you had to get past one Carla Werden.
The Tar Heels did not lose during her college career. At all. They finished second in the ACC Tournament one year because they lost the penalty-kick tiebreaker, but they did not have an official loss all four years.
Little wonder Werden made her national team debut in college. Through the 1990s, through two World Cup triumphs and the inaugural Olympic gold in 1996, Werden and Joy Biefeld married and changed their names to Overbeck and Fawcett, respectively, but were otherwise the same dominating defenders through every tournament, playing every minute of the 1995, 1996 and 1999 tournaments. They didn’t get forward as often as linemate Brandi Chastain, a converted striker, but they kept things locked down at the back.
Overbeck didn’t score much in her career, but U.S. coaches had such faith in her steady feet that she took (and converted) the first penalty kick against China in the 1999 World Cup final. She continued to compete, juggling her duties as U.S. captain with her job as assistant coach at Duke, where she has worked for nearly 25 years. Even after being diagnosed with the autoimmune condition Graves’ disease, she played more international games and captained the WUSA’s Carolina Courage.
The Texas native was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 2010, alongside some guy named Michael Jordan. She also was voted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame, fittingly alongside fellow central defender Alexi Lalas, in her first year of eligibility in 2006.