The FIFA Women’s World Cup began Friday, June 7 in Paris, when the host nation squared off against Korea. If the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup is any indication, hundreds of millions of television viewers across the globe will tune in this summer to see the world’s best female footballers battle it out for what many consider the sport’s most prestigious trophy. FIFA and KantarSport estimated that 764 million in-home viewers tuned in to see at least one minute of the 2015 Women’s World Cup, marking a considerable spike in television viewership from the 2011 competition.
With the 2019 competition underway, now is a great time to reflect on some of the many celebrated female players who have graced the pitch over the years.
Marta: This Brazilian footballer, often referred to as the best female player of all time, is the most prolific goal scorer in the history of the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Abby Wambach: The recently retired American Wambach is second only to Marta in goals scored during World Cup competitions. With 14 such goals, Wambach is tied with retired German footballer Birgit Prinz. Among Wambach’s most memorable moments on the pitch was a stoppage time goal against Brazil in the 120th minute of the 2011 World Cup quarterfinals. That goal evened the score, and the Americans ultimately advanced after winning the game on penalty kicks.
Sun Wen: The retired one-time captain of the Chinese national team put forth an epic performance at the 1999 World Cup in the United States. Though she and her teammates lost in the final that year to the host nation, Sun Wen earned both the Golden Ball and the Golden Boot, which she shared with Marta, for her efforts.
Mia Hamm: Perhaps the most well-known female in the history of American soccer, Hamm is a two-time Women’s World Cup champion. By the time she retired in 2004, Hamm held the world record for the most international goals (158) by a single player. Wambach ultimately surpassed that goal, but Hamm’s impact on the sport, particularly among American youth, is undeniable and arguably unrivaled.
Kelly Smith: In an international career that spanned two decades from 1995 to 2015, Smith debuted for the English national team just three days after her 17th birthday. Though Smith’s career was sometimes marked by injury, many of her contemporaries consider her one of the most naturally gifted female players in the history of the sport.