The American women captured the world's interest during their magical journey to the sold-out Rose Bowl, defeating China in a dramatic penalty kick shootout. For symbolizing in character and performance the ideals of sportsmanship during their journey, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED chose the team for its annual year-end honor.
The U.S. Women's National Team joins the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team as the only teams so honored in the 46-year history of the award. The 20-member team is the first recipient from soccer and represents the eighth time (including the eight "Athletes Who Care" named in 1987 and the Olympic Hockey Team in 1980) that multiple winners have earned the award. The U.S. women also join Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Mary Decker, Mary Lou Retton and Bonnie Blair among the female winners. Patty Sheehan and Judi Brown King were also among the eight "Athletes Who Care."
"In a year filled with many exceptional candidates, the U.S. Soccer Team stood out among the crowd," said SI Managing Editor Bill Colson. "Not only did these young women display brilliance on the field, but their engaging personalities and interaction with fans clearly captivated the nation and exemplified sportsmanship."
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 90,185 fans at the Rose Bowl, the largest crowd ever to watch a women's sporting even in history.
"This is the biggest sports magazine that's out there so to be considered the story of the year means a lot to all of us," said U.S. forward Mia Hamm. "We continue to play for the same reason we played since the first day -- because we love what we do and we love being on this team. This summer we were given the opportunity to show the world what this game means to us and how much we mean to each other. This is a great honor and I think it shows how times are changing. The respect that we received this year was unbelievable."
The U.S. Team will be presented with the traditional "Sportsman" award -- a replica of an ancient Greek amphora. Recently, the team was also named the "Sportswomen of the Year" by SPORTS ILLUSTRATED for WOMEN Magazine.
"This is a truly amazing finish to what has been an amazing year for U.S. Soccer," said Hank Steinbrecher, U.S. Soccer's Secretary General. "U.S. Soccer has been at the forefront of gender equity issues since the birth of the U.S. Women's program in the early 1980s, and the type of recognition this team has garnered in the past 12 months is extremely rewarding. This team has crossed all gender lines in their accomplishments, helping to not only further women's athletic issues, but also raise the purity of sport to an incredible new level."
The cover is available for use on the Associated Press Photo Wire.
Following is a list of every Sports Illustrated Sportsmen and Sportswomen of the Years:
1954 Roger Bannister, Track
1955 Johnny Podres, Baseball
1956 Bobby Morrow, Track
1957 Stan Musial, Baseball
1958 Rafer Johnson, Track
1959 Ingemar Johansson, Boxing
1960 Arnold Palmer, Golf
1961 Jerry Lucas, Basketball
1962 Terry Baker, College Football
1963 Pete Rozelle, Pro Football
1964 Ken Venturi, Golf
1965 Sandy Koufax, Baseball
1966 Jim Ryun, Track
1967 Carl Yastrzemski, Baseball
1968 Bill Russell, Pro Basketball
1969 Tom Seaver, Baseball
1970 Bobby Orr, Hockey
1971 Lee Trevino, Golf
1972 Billie Jean King, Tennis
1973 Jackie Stewart, Auto Racing
1974 Muhammad Ali, Boxing
1975 Pete Rose, Baseball
1976 Chris Evert, Tennis
1977 Steve Cauthen, Horse Racing
1978 Jack Nicklaus, Golf
1979 Terry Bradshaw, Pro Football
1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team
1981 Sugar Ray Leonard, Boxing
1982 Wayne Gretzky, Hockey
1983 Mary Decker, Track
1984 Edwin Moses, Track
1985 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Pro Basketball
1986 Joe Paterno, College Football
1987 Athletes Who Care
1988 Orel Hershiser, Baseball
1989 Greg Lemond, Cycling
1990 Joe Montana, Pro Football
1991 Michael Jordan, Pro Basketball
1992 Arthur Ashe, Tennis
1993 Don Shula, Pro Football
1994 Bonnie Blair, Speed Skating
1995 Cal Ripken Jr., Baseball
1996 Tiger Woods, Golf
1997 Dean Smith, College Basketball
1998 Mark McGwire, Baseball
1999 U.S. Women's Soccer Team