FourFourTwo's top 25 players in U.S. women's national team history: No. 2
2. Mia Hamm
There is no player that has had a great impact on the visibility of the sport than Mia Hamm.
As pure a goal-scorer as the game had seen, Hamm became the Michael Jordan of women’s sports and helped raise the popularity of a team that would capture the hearts of a nation in 1999. Her influence on the sport must be measured not just in her accomplishments on the field – and those are vast – but also in her influence in growing the sport.
Hamm was a star who never wanted the spotlight. Her introverted personality clashed with the fame she would eventually earn, but the 5-foot-5 striker became the face of the women’s program over the course of a career that included two FIFA World Player of the Year awards, 158 goals and induction into the National Soccer Hall of Fame.
Hamm's influence extended to almost every team for which she played. Her career at UNC included just one loss in 95 games and four NCAA championships. She also won a title with the WUSA’s Washington Freedom in 2003. On the international level, Hamm’s skill and on-ball ability were exceeded only by her deadliness in front of the net.
Her career with the U.S. began at the age of 15 and she debuted at the 1991 World Cup at the age of 19. Hamm scored in the first match of the tournament, the first of eight career World Cup goals, and she would help lead the U.S. to the World Cup title. Hamm would add another World Cup title in 1999, scoring twice in the tournament, as well as Olympic gold medals in 1996 and 2004. Her goal-scoring made her one of the most marketable female athletes of all time, most notably earning deals with Nike and Gatorade.
Hamm would close her career as the third-most capped player in U.S. history (276) and though her 158 career goals would be bested by Abby Wambach, Hamm still holds the mark for most assists in a career with 145 – 39 more than the next closest player – and most points in a career with 461 – 20 more than Wambach.
Her influence still looms large, both in the inspiration she provided to current stars and in the common question: “Who will become U.S. Soccer’s next Mia Hamm?”