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Who Will Get the First Goal?

One U.S. player will make history at the 2008 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup when she scores our country’s first-ever goal in this competition. When that happens, she will join an impressive, but short, list of players who have scored the first goal for the United States in an inaugural FIFA event.

In 1991, the great Carin Jennings opened the USA’s account in the FIFA Women’s World Cup when she tallied in the 40th minute of the 3-2 win over Sweden. That goal was actually on the stroke of halftime as an oft-forgotten fact from that tournament is that the games were only 80 minutes long. Of course, the USA would go on to win the title while Jennings would score six total goals and win the Golden Ball as the MVP of the tournament.

At the 1996 Olympics, the first in which women’s soccer was contested, it was Tisha Venturini, one of this country’s all-time greatest attacking midfielders, who scored the USA’s first goal. Her historic score came in the 37th minute of a 3-0 win over Denmark. Venturini would tally once more in that Olympics as the USA went on to win the gold.

In 2002 at the inaugural FIFA U-19 Women’s World Cup, it was Lindsay Tarpley who tallied the first goal in what would turn into a 5-1 U.S. rout of England. It was also the very first goal of the tournament, another historic milestone in what has become a spectacular career for the attacker from Kalamazoo, Mich.

Tarpley would score six goals in that U-19 Women’s World Cup, including the equalizer in the 4-1 semifinal win over Germany and the legendary winning goal in sudden death overtime in the championship game victory over Canada. Of course, she currently has 108 caps, two Olympic gold medals and a bronze from the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

And the first goal for the U.S. U-17s? A betting man would put his New Zealand dollars on one of the USA’s big quartet of goal scorers: forwards Courtney Verloo and Vicki DiMartino or midfielders Kristen and Samantha Mewis. Still, seven other players on the U.S. roster have scored in U-17 international matches and with at least five players in the projected starting lineup at 5-foot-7 or taller, a goal from a set play is certainly a possibility.

Whoever gets it will cement her place in history, but then the focus will immediately be on getting another…and another. Such is the game of soccer.

But with a wide-open attacking tournament expected from these wide-eyed U-17 players who are making their World Cup debuts for 16 countries, the goals should be plentiful over 20 days in New Zealand.

How many goals does it take to win a FIFA youth world championship? That depends, of course, on how many your opponents score, but the USA did pound in 26 in 2002. Germany scored 19 while winning the U-19 world title in 2004 and North Korea scored 18 en route to the 2006 title.

It all, however, starts with the first one.