WORLD CLASS GOAL SCORERS HAMM, LILLY AND WAMBACH LEAD U.S. WOMEN INTO CHICAGO: Fresh off the historic and dramatic gold medal run at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece, the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team has embarked on its 10-game “Fan Celebration Tour,” and enters the second half of the schedule today, playing the sixth game of the tour against Ireland at Soldier Field. The U.S. women have warm memories of Soldier Field, not only due to its four wins here while scoring an average of 4.5 goals a game against the likes of Germany, Holland and Nigeria, but because it was the site of perhaps the most spectacular night of the 1999 Women’s World Cup. On June 24, 1999, the USA went down 1-0 to Nigeria just seconds into the match and roared back to win 7-1 in front of an electric, sold-out crowd. This will be the USA’s first match at the new Soldier Field and the Americans will carry a 5-0-0 record in Illinois into the match, having also played in St. Charles, Ill., in 1997. The USA is led by 24-year-old rising star Abby Wambach, scorer of the winning goal in the 2004 Olympic gold medal victory over Brazil. Wambach heads a group of 16 gold medal winners who will participate in the tour. Young stars Lindsay Tarpley and Heather O’Reilly, who scored in the Olympic final and semifinal respectively, have commitments at their college team at UNC. Wambach has scored four goals in five “FCT” games so far, including two goals and one assist in the opening match on Sept. 25 in her hometown of Rochester, N.Y., as the USA pulled off a dramatic 4-3 victory over Iceland. Those were the only goals allowed by the USA on the tour so far as the team has racked up four straight shutouts. In addition to seeing Mia Hamm score four goals on the tour to extend her world-record mark to 157, the “FCT” has also seen a bit of history. On Oct. 3 against New Zealand in Portland, Ore., midfielder Kristine Lilly scored the 100th goal of her illustrious career. Lilly added goal 101 in the USA’s a 6-0 win over the Kiwis in Cincinnati on Oct. 10. The USA got its biggest crowd of the tour so far last weekend in a 1-0 win over Mexico in Kansas City as 20,435 turned out at Arrowhead Stadium.
“FAN CELEBRATION TOUR” WILL SEE VETERANS BEGIN TO GIVE WAY TO YOUTH: Wambach, who has a team-leading 22 goals in 2004, has already scored several of the most important goals in U.S. history. The reigning Chevrolet U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year led the USA in scoring at the 2003 Women’s World Cup (three goals) and the 2004 Olympics (four goals), tallying the lone score in the 1-0 quarterfinal win at the 2003 WWC that knocked Norway out of the tournament and sent the USA to the semifinal. The “Fan Celebration Tour,” which will include seven two-time gold medallists in goalkeeper Briana Scurry, defenders Joy Fawcett and Brandi Chastain, midfielders Julie Foudy and Kristine Lilly and forwards Mia Hamm and Cindy Parlow, is serving multiple purposes. First and foremost, the 10-game tour spread across 10 cities in nine states against five different countries in three different time zones, will give the U.S. players a chance to thank the fans which have been tremendous supporters of the team over the years as well as give fans across the nation the opportunity to cheer on the current world champions. The tour will also celebrate the gold medal victory and give the fans a chance to see some of the legends of the women’s game for a final time as team captain Julie Foudy, legendary goal scorer Mia Hamm and “Iron-Women” defender Joy Fawcett will retire from international play after the tour.
2004 U.S. WNT “Fan Celebration Tour” Schedule
2004 IS BANNER YEAR FOR U.S. WOMEN: The USA won every tournament it entered in 2004, taking four tournament titles culminating with the 2004 Olympics. The U.S. team has lost just once this year, that to Sweden, but also beat the Swedes in the first match of the year. The USA’s three ties – vs. China, Japan and Australia – were also coupled with wins over those opponents, meaning the USA defeated every team it played in 2004. With 25 wins and five matches left to play in 2004, the USA will likely set the record for wins in a year, which currently stands at 26 in 2000. With the win over Mexico last weekend, the U.S. tied the number of wins they had in the historic year of 1999. Should the USA win today against Ireland, they will have achieved 26 wins in 30 matches. It took the 2000 team 40 matches to win 26 games. The record for goals in a year is 124, also set in 2000, when the USA played a record 41 matches, but with increased parity in the world of women’s soccer and strong competition this year, the USA’s 85 goals so far means that the record is safe.
ATHENS IS A GOLDEN WORD FOR U.S. WOMEN: The U.S. Women’s National Team finished its third Olympics with a record of 12 wins, one loss and three ties all-time in Olympic competition. The USA closed a circle of sorts in Athens, Greece, as the USA won the first-ever gold medal for women’s soccer in another Athens, this one in Georgia, in 1996, also winning 2-1 in the gold medal match, that one against China. The U.S. team actually spent just eight days in Athens at the Olympic Village during the Olympics, three before the tournament started and five after the semifinal win sent the U.S. team back to the host city. The USA played its other five games at outlying venues, and the week or so spent in two separate stints at a beachfront resort in Heraklio on the island of Crete was a treat the USA team will not soon forget. While the crowds were not large for most of the matches, the enthusiastic pro-USA crowd at Karaiskaki Stadium in Athens helped push the USA past a young and dynamic Brazilian team.
WAMBACH FOR PRESIDENT: Few public figures are having a better 2004 campaign than U.S. forward Abby Wambach, who has developed into one of the most dangerous strikers in the world this year. Coming off a dominating 2003 that saw her tie for the WUSA lead in scoring, score both goals for her Washington Freedom club in the WUSA title game, win the game’s MVP award and win the U.S. Soccer Chevrolet Female Player of the Year Award, Wambach has ratcheted up her game even further this year, scoring a team-leading 22 goals over a span of the last 25 matches in which she has played, making her a favorite to repeated as U.S. Soccer player of the year. The 5-foot-11 striker brings a physical game to the pitch that has perhaps never been seen before, with the possible exception of German powerhouse Birgit Prinz, and has proved almost unstoppable once she gets up a head of steam toward goal. The 22-goal performance by Wambach in 2004 marks the second highest total in a calendar year by a U.S. player and she is one of only five players to score 20 or more goals in a year, joining Mia Hamm, Michelle Akers, Kristine Lilly and Tiffeny Milbrett. In addition, Wambach’s 22 goals and 11 assists mark just the seventh time a U.S. players has recorded double figures in goals and assists in a calendar year, but four of those years came from Hamm.
U.S. WOMEN WILL END 2004 HAVING PLAYED 34 MATCHES: With the 10-game “Fan Celebration Tour” tacked onto a highly competitive 2004 schedule and the Olympic Games, the U.S. team will play the second most matches ever in a calendar year by the time the tour ends. The 34 matches are second only to the year 2000, when the team played an amazing 41 games, or one match every nine days. The 34 matches averages a game every 11 days, and the USA team starts the tour having lost just once this year, that to Sweden at the Algarve Cup in Portugal, and currently holds a 25-1-3 record. The USA was 7-1-2 against teams in the Olympics prior to the Games, and with a 5-0-1 record at the Olympics, and the victory over Mexico on Oct. 16, carries at 13-1-3 mark against Olympic opponents this year. The “Fan Celebration Tour” will no doubt feature less-pressure packed matches than the first 24 games of 2004, which saw players competing for spots on the Olympic Team, Olympic preparation matches and the Olympic Games themselves, but the players will be no less motivated to end the year the way they started. As many as 35 players trained in Carson, Calif., for a period of three months in the Olympic Residency Camp at U.S. Soccer’s National Training Center before U.S. head coach April Heinrichs named the 18-player 2004 U.S. Olympic Women’s Soccer Team on July 1. The U.S. team started residency on April 5 and trained for almost 60 total days (with numerous “double-day” training session mixed in) in that time at the Home Depot Center, ending on Sunday, July 18, as the team broke camp in Los Angeles. That training period followed a highly successful first three months of the year in which the USA won three major tournaments while spending 58 out of 68 days on the road from January 12 through March 20. The USA won the Four Nations Tournament in China in January, won the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament in February/March in Costa Rica, and rolled over Norway in the title game of the Algarve Cup on March 20, winning 4-1 behind three goals from Abby Wambach.
THE BEGINNING OF THE END: This year marked the third cycle of an Olympics after a Women’s World Cup. In 1995, the USA finished third at the WWC and then won the Olympics. In 1999, the USA won the WWC, then finished second at the Olympics. In 2003, the USA finished third at the WWC, which was perhaps a positive foreshadowing for a successful Olympic campaign. Not only that, but in 1995, the USA was knocked out of the tournament by Norway, a team it defeated in the semifinals at the 1996 Olympics. In 2003, the USA was knocked out of the Women’s World Cup by Germany, yes, the team they defeated in the 2004 Olympic semifinal. These 10 matches will mark the end of an “era” for the U.S. women, but “era” is almost a misnomer, as the five veterans of the inaugural Women’s World Cup Team in 1991 – Brandi Chastain, Joy Fawcett, Kristine Lilly, Julie Foudy and Mia Hamm – have essentially been a part of the entire “era” of the U.S. Women’s National Team, all debuting for the USA in the late 1980s. The USA boasts both the Babe Ruth and Cal Ripken of women’s soccer in the world’s all-time leading scorer Hamm (157 goals) and the world’s all-time appearance leader Lilly (286 caps). Lilly and Foudy have played in all 24 of the USA’s Women’s World Cup games and all 16 of the USA’s Olympic matches. The 2004 Olympics were the last world championship event for Hamm, Foudy and Fawcett, who will retire from international competition after the “Fan Celebration Tour” while Chastain and Lilly have decided to continue on as long as their talented legs will take them.
PILES OF CAPS: The U.S. Olympic Women’s Soccer Team has four active players with 200 or more caps (Lilly, Hamm, Foudy and Fawcett) and five players with 100 or more caps (Brandi Chastain, Cindy Parlow, Briana Scurry, Christie Rampone and Kate Markgraf), numbers that are never likely to be equaled ever again after the veterans of the 1991 Women’s World Cup retire. The five U.S. players who were members of the 1991 WWC Team (the four 200-cappers and Chastain) have a combined for 1,248 caps. The entire Ireland roster has just 376 caps.
LILLY THE LEGEND: The world-record holder in most international matches played at 286, Kristine Lilly is by far the most capped player, man or woman, in the history of the world. She was the second leading scorer for the USA at the 2004 Olympics, pounding in three goals and got historic 100th against New Zealand on Oct. 3 and now has 101 for her career. Lilly has played in every single world championship match ever contested by the USA. The “Queen of Caps,” debuted in 1987 and has played in about 85% of the matches ever played by the U.S. Women’s National Team. She did not score in her first world championship at the 1991 Women’s World Cup, but has scored in every world championship event she has played since. Amazingly, Lilly had not scored in 17 consecutive matches (astounding for a player who averages a goal for every three games she plays for the USA) before scoring three hugely important goals in the Olympics, but those stats embody Lilly, who has always stepped up big in the biggest of moments. Lilly reached the magical 100-goal mark in the third game of the “Fan Celebration Tour” against New Zealand, a plateau achieved by just four other women’s players in history. Amazingly, she has averaged a point a game, 286 points in 286 games, over the course of her career. At 33, and still playing some of the best soccer of her life, Lilly has a good chance to catch Elisabetta Vignotto of Italy (107) to become the second greatest international scorer in history behind Mia Hamm. Lilly is the only player in history to earn first-team all-league honors for all three years of the WUSA. Even more amazingly, she has started in 275 of her 286 games, meaning she has come off the bench just 11 times in her 17-year career. Lilly has also 1) played against 43 different countries, 2) scored against 28 different countries, 3) played in 22 countries and 4) scored in 15 countries.
NIKEGO PROGRAM SUPPORTS SOCCER IN “FCT” COMMUNITIES: For each ticket sold on the tour, Nike will donate $1 in sports equipment to designated programs in each of the tour’s 10 host cities. The company has already targeted partners in the nine announced locations, which consist largely of local Parks and Recreation programs. The donation of Nike soccer product is designed to support the increase in soccer participation among young girls in each city. Nike has also purchased 50 tickets for each game for youth involved with the recipient organization. More than 77,000 fans have watch the U.S. women play on the “Fan Celebration Tour” so far.
USA vs. IRELAND PREVIEW: The USA and Ireland have met just twice, in 1999 and in 2003, with the USA coming away with 5-0 wins both times. The most recent Ireland match, played in front of a large crowd in Salt Lake City, Utah, was the USA’s first-ever match on an artificial surface and was significant in that young star Heather O’Reilly broke her leg in that game in a collision with Ireland goalkeeper Emma Byrne, who is not on the roster for this match. Ireland plays in the second tier of Europe in regards to qualification for the European championships and Women’s World Cups, but won Group 5 in the last qualifying tournament, a group that included Romania, Croatia, Boznia-Herzegovina and Malta. The Irish won five games and drew three and will get to play for a place in the upper tier during the next go-around. Seven of Ireland’s 20 players are based in the USA, with four playing at U.S. universities, including two – Sonya Hughes and Laura “Shaka” Hislop – at perennial Division II power Franklin Pierce. Five Irish players play in England’s top league, including Yvonne Tracey and Elaine O’Conner, who play for reigning league and cup holders Arsenal.
A LOOK AT THE IRELAND: Ireland’s grand dames are midfielder Claire Scanlan and forward Olivia O’Toole. The 32-year-old Scanlan, who has been capped 41 times with 14 goals, tried out for the WUSA during the inaugural player combine, but was not drafted. The 33-year-old O’Toole has played 53 times for her country, scoring 38 goals and will be Ireland’s main scoring threat against the USA as they look to score their first-ever goal against the Americans, a feat accomplished by Iceland in the first match of this tour. Ireland has two very tall defenders in 6-foot-1 Sharon Boyle (32 caps) and 6-foot Delores Deasley (37 caps), which may come in handy not only for staying with the USA’s 5-foot-11 striker Abby Wambach, but also limiting the USA’s chances in the air, as the Irish goalkeepers are inexperienced, with Jennifer Kett the only capped (5) goalkeeper of three on the roster.
STATS OF NOTE: The USA has scored 85 goals in its 29 matches so far this year, while allowing just 18, but have benefited from two own goals. Abby Wambach leads the team in scoring with 22 goals and 11 assists, while young Lindsay Tarpley scored eight goals with three assists, the third best scoring performance for a 20-year-old in U.S. history, but just one point behind a then 20-year-old Julie Foudy and nine points behind a then 20-year-old Kristine Lilly. Mia Hamm has 13 goals and a team leading 15 assists, the fifth highest yearly assist total in her career, while Shannon Boxx has found the net seven times with four assists from her defensive midfielder position. The U.S. defense has been stellar so far this year, allowing just over half a goal a game on average. In 17 matches against teams participating in the 2004 Olympics, the USA has scored 37 goals and allowed 13, or just under a goal a game. Defender Kate Markgraf has started all 28 games she has played and 28 of the USA’s 29 games, and along with Abby Wambach, leads the team in matches played. Until the Australia match before the Olympics, Boxx had started all 24 games in which she had played since starting national team career in 2003. She now has started 35 of 36 games she has played.
2004 USA WNT BY THE NUMBERS:
0.61 Goals allowed per game by the USA in 2004
1 Wins needed for the USA to tie all-time wins in a calendar year
2 Overtime games played by the USA in 2004, in the Olympic semifinal and final
2.92 Average goals per game for the USA in 2004
3 Decades in which Lilly, Chastain, Fawcett, Foudy and Hamm have appeared for the National Team
5 Number of players on the U.S. Olympic roster from California, or 27 percent
5 Most yellow cards in 2004, by Mia Hamm
7 Number of goals needed for Kristine Lilly to become the world’s second all-time leading scorer
11 Times in the last 100 matches that the U.S. Women’s National Team has been shutout.
13 Number of U.S. players who have played more than 1,200 minutes in 2004
14 Number of U.S. players to record an assist in 2004
15 Most assists in 2004, by Mia Hamm
16 Number of matches in 2004, out of 29, that the USA has scored three or more goals
16 Number of different U.S. players who have scored a goal in 2004
17 Years that Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly and Julie Foudy have been playing international soccer
22 Most goals in 2004 and second most-ever in a calendar year, by Abby Wambach
27 Number of players used in a full international match by Heinrichs in 2004
36 Career goals by Abby Wambach, putting her 10th on the all-time list at the age of 24
71 Career shutouts of Briana Scurry
89 Number of minutes in 2004 that Abby Wambach averages a goal every…
137 Career assists for Mia Hamm, a world record
150 Caps by Briana Scurry, becoming the 11th U.S. player to reach that mark
157 Career international goals for Mia Hamm, a world record
286 World record for caps of Kristine Lilly
2,452 Number of minutes played by Kate Markgraf in 2004, most on the team
23,063 Number of minutes played for the USA by Kristine Lilly in her international career, or over 384 hours
77,051 Number of fans to watch the USA so far on the “Fan Celebration Tour”