40 greatest female athletes: Marta

Marta has become a full-fledged superstar in soccer-mad South America, where the women's game has long struggled to make inroads. Lars Baron/Getty Images

ESPN is marking the 40th anniversary of Title IX by unveiling the top 40 female athletes of the past 40 years.

American midfielder Leslie Osborne still remembers the first time she saw the No. 22 woman in ESPN's countdown play.

Marta, as she was simply known, was only 16 at the 2002 Under-19 Women's World Cup, but she already was special enough to leave an impression.

"She had qualities I had never seen before in other female players," Osborne recalls.

Still just 26, Marta already has gone on to be a five-time FIFA World Player of the Year (2006-10). She has netted 80 goals in 72 games for Brazil, and was the leading scorer in Women's Professional Soccer during each of her three seasons.

Read the complete story from espnW here.

Earlier in this series:

No. 40: Diver Fu Mingxia

No. 39: Jockey Julie Krone

No. 38: Gymnast Mary Lou Retton

No. 37: Hockey player Cammi Granato

No. 36: Soccer player Kristine Lilly

No. 35: Basketball player Diana Taurasi

No 34: Volleyball player Flo Hyman

No. 33: Soccer player Abby Wambach

No. 32: Swimmer Mary T. Meagher

No. 31: Marathoner Joan Benoit

No. 30: Sprinter Gail Devers

No. 29: Basketball player Nancy Lieberman

No. 28: Marathoner Grete Waitz

No. 27: Soccer player Michelle Akers

No. 26: Basketball player Chamique Holdsclaw

No. 25: Swimmer Dara Torres

No. 24: Golfer Nancy Lopez

No. 23: Swimmer Tracy Caulkins