Professional Women’s Soccer and the WUSA
“The Best Three Years of My Life”
July 10, 1999, was, in many ways, the pinnacle event for soccer in its history in the United States, not just the women’s game. How could you surpass 40 million U.S. viewers watching on television on a hot Saturday afternoon in July while 91,000 baked in the Rose Bowl, including President Clinton? Despite earning their second world title, filling stadiums, attracting mainstream media attention, gaining widespread acceptance as top-class athletes, and being acclaimed as role models to the country’s youth, the national team players did what elite athletes do—they immediately set another goal. They wanted what their male counterparts had in most major markets around the world: a professional league to hone their skills and spur the further development of the sport. World Cup 1999 was the big bang; now they needed daily competition and an ongoing vehicle to continue to market the sport. However, the ‘99 tournament was not the initial stimulus for the launch of a professional league. World Cup 1999 was an important trigger, but work on the new league actually began shortly after the team’s previous major international title, the Olympic Games Gold Medal in Georgia in 1996.
Some of the same elements of the 1999 World Cup success were