The first FIFA Women’s World Cup, held in 1991 in China, was a tremendous success. Large crowds flocked to the stadiums to see some of the pioneers of the women’s game as the United States announced its presence on the world’s stage.
The USA won all six of its games in the tournament, beginning with its first-ever Women’s World Cup match, a 3-2 victory against a Sweden side that featured future U.S. Women’s National Team head coach Pia Sundhage. The USA would go on to defeat Norway, 2-1, in the World Cup Final in Guangzhou. The great Michelle Akers scored both goals in the championship game and 10 goals overall in the tournament, a record that still stands ahead of the 2015 tournament. Future stars Julie Foudy, Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain and Kristine Lilly won their first of several world titles that they collected throughout their illustrious careers.
Hamm scored twice in the tournament while Jennings had six goals (including a hat trick in the somewhat surprising 5-2 semifinal victory against Germany) and Heinrichs scored four times (including the other two goals in the semifinal). Wendy Gebauer, Joy Biefeld and Julie Foudy also scored their first World Cup goals.
After accomplishing such a remarkable achievement, the U.S. players returned to the U.S. to relative anonymity, but the roots were set for what would grow into the most successful international women’s soccer program in history.