Nine for IX: 'The 99ers'

Directed by Erin Leyden; produced by Julie Foudy

Film summary

The world of women's sports was kicked upside down on July 10, 1999. Before a sold-out crowd of more than 90,000 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena,
Calif., and an estimated 40 million Americans watching on television, the U.S. women's soccer team reached a cultural and athletic pinnacle with its penalty-kick shootout victory against China to win the Women's World Cup.

As told through the voice of then-team captain Julie Foudy, we get an inside look at the strong team ethic and rare "do for each other" mentality that propelled the squad to victory that summer and turned the team into a cultural touchstone.

With unprecedented access, "The 99ers" uses candid, behind-the-scenes footage shot by the players during the three-week tournament to present a unique portrait of the women who irrevocably changed the face of women's athletics. The film reunites key players from the 1999 squad and also features current U.S. players in an examination of how women's soccer, and women's sports as a whole, has changed since that epic day at the Rose Bowl.

Producer bio: Julie Foudy
Foudy, a reporter and analyst for ABC, ESPN and espnW, is best known for her long and successful career as a midfielder on the U.S. women's national soccer team. She is a two-time World Cup champion and three-time Olympic medalist. Throughout her 17 years on the team, she spent 13 serving as a captain, scored 45 goals and earned 59 assists. She was a four-time All-American at Stanford University and named High School Player of the Decade (1980s) by the Los Angeles Times. In 2007, she was inducted into the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame, alongside longtime teammate and friend Mia Hamm.

Foudy has served as president and sat on the board of directors for the Women's Sports Foundation, focusing on Title IX, childhood obesity and athletes' rights issues. In 1997, she received the FIFA Fair Play Award for her work against child labor in the stitching of soccer balls.

Foudy is active in many charitable organizations, including Athletes for Hope and Global Girl Media, a nonprofit using journalism to empower young women. In 2006, with her husband, Ian Sawyers, she founded the Julie Foudy Sports Leadership Academy, a unique residential camp experience that uses sports as the vehicle to teach leadership skills for life. Foudy is the proud mother of two children, Isabel and Declan.

Director bio: Erin Leyden
Leyden has been a producer with ESPN Films since 2008. She has produced more than a dozen documentaries for the award-winning "30 for 30" series, working with filmmakers, including Barry Levinson ("The Band That Wouldn't Die"), Steve Nash ("Into the Wind") and Jalen Rose ("The Fab Five").

Before joining the Films group, she worked at ESPN producing features, specials and documentaries, including "Ali's Dozen," "The Greatest Game Ever Played," "ESPN The Magazine at 10" and "Her Story."

Foudy: Personal statement
A friend recently asked me how I would describe the experience of the 1999 World Cup to my young kids, and without hesitation, the first thing that came to mind was: BEST. JOB. EVER. Yes, almost two decades of playing for my country alongside an amazing group of women who taught me the value of competing, growing and digging deeper than I thought possible counts me among the lucky. But, more important, this group of women showed me that challenges, obstacles and adversity are really just thrilling, laughter-infused adventures that are part of the wonderful journey.

It all came together one sweet summer in 1999. And no one has ever seen it from the inside. Given our propensity for the absurd, I thought it would be fun to document our 1999 World Cup experience on a camera. So with no plans and no shooting experience, I just kept pressing record … so much so that Mia eloquently declared the camera a "great big zit on my heeeed" in her best Scottish accent.

We have compiled the best of many hours of my personal footage and have used these moments as a launchpad to discuss that summer -- the impact, the legacy and the question that has trailed us all for a decade: Are we pioneers or was 1999 just an anomaly? This film is a completely unique look back, from the gals who gleefully shimmied through that summer to providing a glimpse into the personalities, pressure, excitement and growing recognition that the summer would be one to remember. But consider yourself warned: There will be a lot of bad hair, bad dancing, bad singing and even some nudity, thanks to Brandi Chastain.

Join the conversation and tweet your thoughts about "The 99ers" to #NineforIX.