Two-time Olympic gold medalist Carli Lloyd has been a leader on the U.S. women's national soccer team for nearly a decade. She was 16, and already a high school standout, when the U.S. women won the 1999 World Cup in front of the largest crowd to ever attend a women's sporting event. On the 15th anniversary of the game, we asked Lloyd what she remembered most from that day.
These were my idols playing. I was a teenager who lived and breathed soccer, and I always had a ball in my hand wherever I went. I had pictures of Mia Hamm, Michelle Akers, and Julie Foudy on my bedroom walls, and I wanted to be on a World Cup team someday. That summer, I had the TV on all the time watching the World Cup games, and on the day of the final, we had a big gathering at my house with friends and family to watch the game.
Kristine Lilly's awesome save. It was a game with lots of chances -- a real nail-biter. But the one play that I remember best was when Kristine leapt up to save a header that was about to go in goal during overtime. It had gotten past Briana Scurry, the goalkeeper, but somehow Kristine got in there and saved it, and since it was sudden death at that point, it saved the game. I remember thinking, She's pretty tiny to be the one that saved that goal! It was an incredible moment.
The will and desire of the team. They were doing something fantastic and amazing out there, and their persistence stood out to me the most as a younger player. I watched Michelle Akers fight through injury during that game, and that characterized the whole team for me. They never gave up -- and they played until the final whistle and then finished off the penalty kicks.
I knew they'd win. It's always beyond nerve-wracking when a game goes into penalty kicks, but I also felt a sense of confidence that they were going to do it. They'd found a way to make it into the final game and get all the way to those PKs. It felt like it was their time.
Brandi Chastain's celebration, of course. I thought it was the coolest thing when she was so excited that she ripped her shirt off right then and there after she made the final penalty kick. She just couldn't contain her happiness. It was a picture-perfect picture. I loved seeing all of the players go crazy with excitement, too. Even right then, it felt like a huge, historic moment.
It inspired me then, and still does now. I wanted to be like those players in 1999, and when I look at the memorabilia I have from that time I think, Wow, I've played with these women now. Back then I was so excited to get their autographs!
What they did was amazing, and now it's our turn. I'm able to play pro soccer because they paved the way for all of us. In 15 years, I hope it's the same trend, and we've improved the game for another generation of girls.
It brings chills to my arms when I watch replays of that World Cup final. It's every soccer player's dream to win a World Cup and it's definitely one of mine. And I want to leave my own lasting legacy in our sport.
Watch 'The 99ers' on ESPN Classic at 10:30 p.m. ET Thursday night.