Over the years, as women’s soccer has grown throughout the United States and the world, the U.S. Women’s National Team has become synonymous with winning.
There have been many epic victories, and of course a few crushing losses, but through the past 33 years, the U.S. WNT has done something that is among the most difficult in sports: win consistently.
It’s a tradition built by several generations of players. A legacy that has driven the U.S. WNT players for more than three decades to sustain its powerhouse status globally. It’s a responsibility that has continued to motivate every player on the team.
The U.S. Women’s National Team will take on Portugal on Thursday, Nov. 8 (1 p.m. ET; ESPN2) at Estadio António Coimbra da Mota in Estoril, a suburb of Lisbon. The USA is unbeaten this year at 16-0-2, but a win against Portugal will mark a significant milestone in the program’s history.
Since its inception in 1985, the U.S. WNT has an overall record of 499 wins, 65 losses and 74 ties, going 282-28-20 (85% winning percentage) at home, 49-13-17 away (62%) and 168-33-28 (73%) on neutral ground.
Of course, the credit for all this success goes to the 229 players who, to date, have earned at least one cap for the USA, as well as all the coaches and staff who have supported them over the last 33 years that the program has proudly represented U.S. Soccer around the world.
One player who has been a major part of the USA’s winning ways is U.S. forward Carli Lloyd. With 263 caps, she has been on the field for 216 of the USA’s 499 wins, tied for fourth most in U.S. history with Mia Hamm, and only behind Kristine Lilly (280 wins), Christie Rampone (252 wins) and Julie Foudy (218 wins).
“Five-hundred wins is a huge milestone,” Lloyd said. “It’s always an honor to wear the red, white and blue and play for my country. It’s been an incredible journey and I have been able to play with so many generation of players. I got to play with some of the 99ers and they paved the way for all of us, and hopefully me and my generation have helped paved the way for some of these younger players playing now. To win so many games is a credit to this amazing team over the years of being successful and growing and wanting to continue being the best in the world.”
For several players winning has become so ingrained in their careers that while they’ve been on the field for more than 100 wins, they also have experienced 10 or less losses. On the current roster, three players currently own that unique double: Alex Morgan (121-10-20, 87% winning percentage), Becky Sauerbrunn (119-8-20, 88%) and Megan Rapinoe: (114-9-21, 86%).
That history of success is part of the soul of the team, passed down from generation to generation and the current group of younger players certainly understands that.
“Being on the verge of 500 wins shows the character of this team and what this team is all about,” 24-year-old U.S. WNT midfielder Lindsey Horan said. “I have never been involved in a game with this team didn’t believe we could win. It gives me goosebumps thinking of the legacy that every player before us has left and how it continues on through every cycle, and that now it’s our turn to uphold that tradition. It’s truly incredible to be part of this and a 500th win would be amazing.”
From the team that won the first game back in 1986, a group that had no idea what they were building, to the 2018 squad which is ranked #1 in the world, every player, no matter when or how many games they played, has an understanding of what being part of the U.S. WNT means. It’s a team that holds itself to extremely high standards, that always believes it can win no matter what adversity arises, and one that strives in an unrelenting process to have success while paying respect to those who have come before and continuing to lay a foundation for those who will come after.
And against Portugal, the current group of players is hoping to add one more historical milestone in the remarkable history of the U.S. Women’s National Team.