A monthly feature about a U.S. Men's, Women's or Youth National Team player from the U.S. Soccer Communications Department.
"Ahead of the Curve"
When it comes to soccer, U.S. Women's National Team forward Cindy Parlow is NOT what you would call a late bloomer. In fact, Parlow has always seemed to be a stride ahead of the pack. She left high school a year early to play for the University of North Carolina, debuted for the national team just shy of 18 years old, was the youngest member on the 1996 gold medal-winning U.S. Olympic Team and had a street named after her in her hometown of Memphis, Tenn., before she turned 22.
So it was no surprise to many when the lanky yet lithe strawberry blonde became the youngest player in the U.S. history (albeit the 13th) to play 100 times for the national team when she appeared against Canada on July 3 of this year in Blaine, Minn., at the age of 23 years, 56 days.
Still, the accelerated success was definitely a surprise to Parlow, who split her time between soccer and basketball up until the age of 16. As a high school sophomore, Parlow's basketball coach told her she had to choose between the two sports. Parlow cleaned out her basketball locker that afternoon.
"That was a sad day," said Parlow. "I loved basketball, but I was just so much more involved with soccer. I was in ODP (Olympic Development Program) and on the youth national team. It seemed like the right choice to make at the time, but I have been fortunate from a young age to have great coaches, from high school to college and with the Atlanta Beat, and they've all helped me a lot along the way. Tony (DiCicco) gave me a shot at 17 and played me in the last 15 minutes of games. That gave me the confidence to play at the international level. He gave me the chance to develop as a player."
The 5-foot-11 Parlow represents the new breed of women's soccer players. Athletes who could have played basketball or volleyball in college or professionally, but opted for grass over hardwood, and who are now achieving fame and fortune at a level never thought possible for female soccer players.
Parlow possesses size and strength rarely seen in women's soccer. Combined with tremendous skills, an extraordinary feel for the game and a sometimes nasty disposition, she is one of the USA's most competitive players.
"I think I came out of college at a great time," said Parlow. "It was right before the Women's World Cup and I was fortunate that I arrived on the scene at a time when women's soccer was about to explode. I was able to reap all the benefits of playing for the national team."
Parlow saw little time at the 1996 Olympics, but the experience paid monster dividends for the USA at the 1999 Women's World Cup, when she scored against Nigeria in the first round and put the USA on its way to the final with an early header goal against Brazil in the semifinals.
That Women's World Cup year also set the stage for a dominating 2000 campaign in which she led the team in scoring with 19 goals and seven assists, including four hat tricks, one short of a U.S. record for a calendar year.
"Some of the goals came against some weaker teams, and we also played more games than we've ever played before, so I had quite a few opportunities," added Parlow. "But I definitely became more comfortable playing with Tiffeny (Milbrett) and Mia (Hamm). I got a better understanding about how they like to play by playing with them on a
Even though she has accomplished so much at a young age, Parlow has her sights set on loftier goals. Still not halfway through her third decade, Parlow figures to be a major part of the USA's next two Women's World Cup and Olympic campaigns. She has scored 46 career goals, almost one for every two games she has played, and currently ranks sixth on the USA's all-time goal scoring chart, behind legends Mia Hamm, Michelle Akers, Kristine Lilly, Tiffeny Milbrett and Carin Gabarra.
"Obviously, we are looking forward to regaining the number one spot in the world that we lost to Norway at the Olympics," said Parlow. "And looking forward, our youth (players) look great. Our U-19s are strong and getting ready for their world championship and our Under-21s continue to dominate. Our core of veterans will be playing for a while longer, so I think the future is bright for the USA."
Table of Contents
1) Armchair Midfielder (Dissecting the 2002 World Cup Final Draw)
2) All I Want for Christmas... (w/ U.S. National Teams staff and players)
3) At the Movies (w/ U-21 WNT midfielder Aly Wagner)
4) Queries and Anecdotes (w/ MNT midfielder Chris Armas)
5) Making it to the Show (w/ U-17 MNT forward Ed Johnson)
6) Superstar!!! (w/ WNT forward Cindy Parlow)
7) Mark That Calendar (MNT vs. South Korea -- Dec. 9)
8) Point-Counterpoint (w/ coaches Bruce Arena and Bob Gansler)
9) From the Bleachers (w/ U.S. Soccer fan Dave Brett Wasser)
10) "You Don't Know Jack (Marshall)" (College Soccer Trivia)
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