The number 13 has certainly been lucky for the U.S. Women's National Team. Its owner for the last 15 years, midfielder Kristine Lilly, has played an astounding 242 times for her country, more than any man or women in history. And she's not done. Not even close. In fact, with two assists against Mexico in the opening game of the Women's Gold Cup, she moved past Michelle Akers on all-time U.S. Women's point-scoring list with 249. Lilly and her U.S. teammates continue play in the 2002 CONCACAF Women's Gold Cup on Saturday, Nov. 2, against Panama at Safeco Field in Seattle in a match being broadcast live on Fox Sports World at 7:30 p.m. PT. The top two finishers in the tournament will earn berths to the 2003 Women's World Cup in China. As the USA prepped for their final group match and moved from Southern California to the Pacific Northwest, Lilly took a few minutes to discuss past qualifying tournaments, memorable goals and how sometimes pets don't mimic their owners.
ussoccer.com: This is your third World Cup qualifying tournament. What are your memories of the first two?
Lilly: I remember in Haiti in 1991 that there were times we didn't have any power in the hotel. The lights would go out for an hour or two and we would just kind of sit around with candles and wait for it to come back on. The crowds were also memorable. The Haitian fans were awesome. There was music and dancing at the stadium and everyone was having a good time. It was an event. From Montreal in 1994, I remember we went to some really good restaurants and in one of the games we had the first and only brawl in women's national team history, which I want to go on record as saying that we did not start.
ussoccer.com: You've played in 242 full international matches. Is there one secret to your longevity?
Lilly: I wouldn't say there is one secret, but my grandma did live until she was 91, so good genes might have something to do with it.
ussoccer.com: You've scored 89 career international goals, do you have a favorite?
Lilly: Well, if I absolutely have to narrow it down, there are probably three that are most memorable. My first goal on my first trip back in 1987 was definitely special. Not only was it my first, but I scored with my right foot, which doesn't happen too often. In the 1995 Women's World Cup, I scored against Japan on a long free-kick in the quarterfinals, which was an important game. That might be the only free-kick I've ever scored. Of course, the penalty kick goal in the shootout in the World Cup Final was an amazing experience. I was nervous, but very focused. I couldn't hear the crowd, and there was this one strange moment as I kicked that was very peaceful. I felt confident I would make it.
ussoccer.com: What do you think of Mexico's improvement since the 1999 Women's World Cup?
Lilly: They've put some more time, effort and money behind their team in the last four years, which is a great thing for women's soccer. They've improved every time we've played them and they have a couple players in the WUSA. I know they'll be ready because it's also their dream to qualify for the World Cup.
ussoccer.com: You have a 70-pound, two-year-old Golden Retriever. Does he like to play soccer?
Lilly: Well, Scribner knows that his mom loves to play soccer, but he'd rather chase and find tennis balls all day. Sometimes he chews on his mini-soccer balls, but he just doesn't like to play soccer.
ussoccer.com: There is no doubt that you and your teammates have left an amazing legacy for all the young girls in America. How would you describe that legacy?
Lilly: Basically, we've played a sport that we've love for a long time. We've won world championships and gold medals, but more importantly, we opened some people's eyes to the special things about soccer, and the people that play it, that they might not have known before. We've hopefully shown people how wonderful it is to do something you love and have an impact on young kids in the process.
ussoccer.com: You and your teammates are competing for a berth at the 2003 Women's World Cup in China. So, how many times have you been to China?
Lilly: I think it's seven or eight, but I have lost track. Hopefully, I'll be back at least one more time.