The most enduring image of this summer's Women's World Cup may be a shirtless Brandi Chastain celebrating her Cup-winning goal in the overtime shoot-out but it was not the only thing worth remembering about the tournament. Great competition and an explosion in the worldwide attention span for women's sports, including a record crowd of over 90,000 for the final at the Rose Bowl were also big parts of the wildly successful event.
It was a benchmark for women's sports. Interest, attendance, media coverage all mushroomed because of the Americans' success on the international stage. The players on the U.S. women's soccer team are bona fide celebrities. Ask any girl under the age of 18 who is her favorite athlete and they'll invariably answer “Mia” or “Brandi” or one of the team's other stars.
To see just how big they've become just look at the cover of the Dec. 20 Sports Illustrated. The team is pictured as the magazine's Sportswomen of the Year.
Years from now 1999 will be looked back on as a benchmark year in the growth of women's sports and perhaps this team will be recognized as true pioneers.
The tournament itself came down to the best two teams in the world. China faced off against the USA. It was a tightly played game and regulation time ended in a scoreless draw. In the overtime shootout the first two players for each team scored on their attempts. Then China's Liu Ying couldn't beat USA goaltender Briana Scurry. Everyone else scored and when Chastain buried the fifth and winning shootout goal. Then the team, the crowd and a burgeoning legion of women's soccer fans went wild.
In Major League Soccer's fourth season the D.C. United returned to their accustomed spot as league champions. The United, champions of the MLS in the league's first two seasons, have now won three of the fourt titles in league history. Game MVP Ben Olsen scored a goal late in the first half as the United beat the Los Angeles Galaxy, 2-0, in MLS Cup '99 before a crowd of 44,910 at Foxboro Stadium.