The honor given to the U.S. women represents the magazine's first annual "Sportswoman of the Year" selection and can be added to several other historic firsts achieved by the team. The U.S. Women's National Team won the first Women's World Cup in 1991, the first gold medal for Olympic women's soccer in 1996 and the first Goodwill Games gold medal in 1998.
SPORTS ILLUSTRATED FOR WOMEN also chose track and field legend Jackie Joyner-Kersee as its "Female Athlete of the Century." U.S. players Mia Hamm, Briana Scurry, Kristine Lilly, Brandi Chastain and Julie Foudy will appear with Joyner-Kersee on a gatefold cover in SI FOR WOMEN's winter edition, due on the newsstands nationwide on December 2.
"These women are very special group of athletes and people," said U.S. Head Coach Tony DiCicco, who guided the USA to both Olympic and World Cup gold. "Never has there been a team which showed so much unity and selflessness in their drive to reach their dreams. It's a tremendous honor to be chosen by SPORTS ILLUSTRATED FOR WOMEN as their first 'Sportswomen of the Year.' Everyone involved with the team takes great pride in the fact that our players will continue to be role models for all the young female athletes in this country and around the world."
The U.S. women set a record for wins in a year during 1999, posting a 25-2-2 record and scored the second most goals ever in a calendar year with 111, including 18 in Women's World Cup play. The USA's penalty-kick victory over China in the Women's World Cup Final was witnessed by a sold-out crowd of 90,185 fans at the Rose Bowl, the largest crowd ever to watch a women's sporting even in history. The television audience for the Final Game of more than 40 million made it the highest rated soccer game in U.S. history. The U.S. women averaged almost 69,000 fans for each of its six Women's World Cup games, and following the victory, were featured of the cover of Time, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated and People Magazine in the same week. It was just the second time in history that one event made all four covers.
The editors of SI FOR WOMEN, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED and CNN/SI also picked the Top 100 Female Athletes of the 20th Century with two U.S. players making the list. Forward Mia Hamm, the world's all-time leading scorer, came in at #12 while Michelle Akers, widely regarded as the finest female soccer player in history, was #40.
The SI FOR WOMEN featuring the U.S. Women's National Team will be the fourth of four special issues published in 1999. It will also feature a special tribute to DiCicco, who resigned as head coach on November 3rd after winning a U.S. Soccer record 103 career games. SI FOR WOMEN will begin publishing every other month starting in March of 2000.