The team that will line up at CenturyLink Field for Thursday’s U.S.-Australia game will feature many young faces, anchored by veterans Megan Rapinoe and captain Carli Lloyd. For 1999 star Julie Foudy, it’s gratifying to have watched new stars emerge since her group retired.
In 2015, Julie Foudy watched the U.S. national team win the Women’s World Cup from the press box. She didn’t get to see the trophy presentation or much of the celebration that followed because she was working for ESPN.
Foudy wasn’t the one savoring the win on the field then, but she still felt everything had come full circle. For those players, this was their 1999 — the year Foudy and the U.S. won the World Cup and ignited a soccer frenzy.
In the years since Foudy, Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain and the other icons of the 1999 team retired, the national team has seen another generation of stars come and go. Abby Wambach and former Reign goalkeeper Hope Solo were part of the 2015 World Cup team. But they’re now also part of the history books.
U.S. vs. Australia, 7 p.m. at CenturyLink Field, ESPN
The team that will line up on the turf at CenturyLink Field for the U.S. national team’s game against Australia on Thursday night will feature a sea of young faces, anchored by veterans Megan Rapinoe of the Reign and captain Carli Lloyd, who, with 239 caps, is the most experienced player on the roster.
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For Foudy, it’s gratifying to have watched two new generations of stars emerge since her group retired.
“There was a period after we retired that they were struggling in terms of popularity and performances,” Foudy said this week while appearing at an event in the University District to promote her book, “Choose to Matter.”
Foudy played for the U.S. national team from 1988 to 2004, winning World Cups in 1991 and 1999 and two Olympic gold medals.
She remembers Wambach worrying that the new U.S. teams would never reach the level of success Foudy’s group managed. Foudy told her they would but added that it might take time. Eventually, Wambach and her teammates fulfilled that vision, epitomized by their World Cup win, and for Foudy that was exciting to see.
Foudy is still involved with the sport, working as an analyst and reporter for ESPN. She’ll be doing color commentary for Thursday’s match, part of the team’s 2017 Tournament of Nations.
“Now it’s like watching my kids,” Foudy said. “I feel almost maternal about it.”
Many of the U.S. players who will play in Thursday’s game have just started playing for the national team in the past few years. Alyssa Naeher, who, with 15 international caps, is the most experienced goalkeeper on the roster, likely will start against Australia. Defender Taylor Smith, goalkeeper Abby Smith and midfielder Margaret Purce will be making their first international appearances for the U.S.
But with several key players from the 2015 World Cup-winning team still around to help guide the youngsters, Foudy thinks the team is in good hands.
“I feel like the national team is in a great place in terms of popularity, awareness, support,” Foudy said.
National-team games such as the one Thursday usually don’t have a problem attracting crowds, Foudy said, but she still sees attendance at National Women’s Soccer League games as an area that needs to improve. However, the way Foudy’s teams played helped show the younger players what it looks like to grow the sport.
“You can make strides in rules and litigation and movements, and your voice is in all those things, but you can also make movements with how you play,” said Reign goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer, who attended Foudy’s book event and will be at Thursday’s game. “I think that (1999) team did that. They were just playing. They became so loved because they were just playing and doing what they loved to do.”
Though Foudy expected the reach of that World Cup to extend further and spark faster growth in other countries, in the United States the success of the 1999 national team caused the sport to “change immensely,” Kopmeyer said.
And it gave young athletes such as Kopmeyer a group of female athletes to look up to — something Foudy said she didn’t have.
“It was the first time in ’99 that anyone had ever put that concerted effort together to selling the women’s game,” Foudy said. “You see the results.”