Amidst all the success and accomplishments of her remarkable career, it’s easy to overlook the value of Hope Solo’s longevity for the U.S. Women’s National Team.
It began in 2000, when the highly regarded University of Washington freshman started in an 8-0 shutout of Iceland at Davidson (N.C.). Following her time alongside many U.S. soccer pioneers, Solo would outlast a young teammate named Abby Wambach, who burst onto the scene in 2001 on the way to a world record 184 international goals. This is the third Summer Olympics appearance for Solo, who was an alternate in 2004.
The athletic 35-year-old goalkeeper hardly shows any signs of slowing down as she prepares for her 200th cap Saturday against France at Mineiråo Stadium in Belo Horizonte. Solo will be making her 192nd start and seeking her 102nd shutout, both U.S. goalkeeper records.
She will become the first goalkeeper in international soccer history, man or woman, to reach 200 caps and the 11th U.S. WNT player to do so.
Solo took over as the USA’s No. 1 shirt in 2005 and would own even more caps if it wasn’t for a pair of serious injuries. But both times she returned as strong as ever to leave no doubt she still deserved her spot.
After not playing during 2011 World Cup Qualifying due to shoulder issues, Solo helped carry the U.S. to the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final, winning the Golden Glove award as the tournament’s best goalkeeper and the Bronze Ball as the third-most outstanding player. Following a three-month absence due to wrist surgery in 2013, Solo didn’t give up a goal in her first four games back.
Whether in front of huge American crowds or hostile fans throughout the world, Solo continues to make her case as the best female goalkeeper of all time. An even 100 of her caps have come at home, along with 32 appearances in Portugal, 18 in China and 14 in Canada.
Solo’s career began with a comfortable blowout, but she’s made countless spectacular saves over the years to earn a U.S. goalkeeper record 151 wins against increasingly competitive international competition. That includes 16 wins over Canada, 15 over Mexico, 13 over China, 11 over Japan and six in seven matches against the USA’s next 2016 Olympic opponent, France.
Additional American records of 1,256 consecutive minutes played and 55 straight games without a loss stand out as highlights of Solo’s sensational run between the posts. In her club career, she has been a part of teams in five American cities while inspiring a generation of young female athletes.
The 2015 World Cup answered any questions about Solo’s ability to continue playing at a World Class level that few, if any, can match. She played every minute and won another Golden Glove trophy thanks to five shutouts en route to her first World Cup title.
Saturday’s milestone will bring Solo within one cap of the top-10 in U.S. Women’s Soccer History. It’s still too early to predict where she’ll end up on that illustrious list, but it’s abundantly clear she’ll leave some big shoes to fill.