U.S. National Team, 1996–1999
“Welcome to Our Party”
Two U.S.-based events took place in a four-year period that would forever change the direction of women’s soccer both domestically and globally: the 1996 Olympic Games and the 1999 Women’s World Cup. The latter tournament in particular would cement the U.S. National Team into the American consciousness in a way that went way beyond even the players’ wildest dreams.
The Atlanta, Georgia, Olympic Games were significant because the International Olympic Committee (IOC) added more women’s sports to the agenda, including high-profile sports such as basketball, softball, and tennis, in an attempt to equalize the number of men and women participants. At first it looked like women’s soccer would miss out, but Marilyn Childress, a Georgia soccer leader and adult soccer player, led a two-year-long grass-roots lobbying effort of FIFA, the IOC, and the Atlanta Organizing Committee. The IOC relented under the pressure, adding a limited format for the sport with only eight teams (half of the men’s total): the United States as hosts and the seven highest finishers from the 1995 World Cup.
Childress’s efforts were a monumental achievement for the local soccer community, particularly given the contentious ongoing