FourFourTwo's top 25 players in U.S. women's national team history: No. 4
4. Kristine Lilly
The 2004 Olympics mark a great changing of the guard in U.S. women’s soccer. Julie Foudy, Brandi Chastain, Cindy Parlow, Joy Fawcett and Mia Hamm all wrapped up their international careers in 2004; Tiffeny Milbrett and Shannon MacMillan soon followed.
Kristine Lilly, who won the 1991 and 1999 World Cups with Foudy, Chastain, Fawcett and Hamm, kept going. And going.
She was hardly a late bloomer. She was first capped in 1987, 12 days after her 16th birthday. She was named U.S. Soccer Female Athlete of the Year in 1993. Then again in 2005 and 2006.
The diminutive but indomitable flank midfielder and forward had 130 goals and 106 assists, but her biggest impact was on a defensive play -- in extra time of the 1999 World Cup final, she stuck to her post on a corner kick and leaped to head Fan Yunjie’s shot off the line. FIFA used “Golden Goal” sudden death in that tournament, so without Lilly’s play, there would be no penalty kicks (Lilly converted one of those, too), no shirtless celebration for Chastain, and likely a far different arc of history for the U.S. women.
She missed the 2008 Olympics, giving birth to her first child that year, but she returned to play in WPS with the Boston Breakers, the same club for which she played in the WUSA. And she was not yet done with the national team, returning in 2010 before finally retiring with 354 caps.
In a career that stretched from Reagan to Obama, she made plenty of American history on her own.