USWNT Turns 35: By The Numbers – Part 1

Stats compiled by Jen Cooper


On August 18, 1985, the US women’s national team (USWNT) suited up for the very first time, facing Italy in a small international tournament on the Adriatic Coast dubbed the “Mundialito.” Seventeen players had been hastily selected after that summer’s Olympic Sports Festival in Baton Rouge, and Mike Ryan of Seattle was designated head coach. The USWNT finished that tourney in Italy with a 0-3-1 record, scoring just 3 goals. The story of that first team has been told a few times, but it’s worth reading about if you don’t already know the story well.

1985 USWNT

Thirty-five years later, the USWNT have won more World Cup trophies and Olympic gold medals than any other women’s national team. The Americans have held the #1 FIFA ranking for the majority of the time since women’s rankings were first introduced in summer 2003. And before the Covid-19 pandemic shut down international sports in March and postponed the 2020 Olympics, the team was set to compete in its seventh straight Olympic tournament.

So, on the occasion of the team’s 35th anniversary, Keeper Notes will be posting historic USWNT stats, stories and videos throughout the week. Enjoy the woso nerd content, and be sure to check out all the other old school USWNT videos on the Keeper Notes “WoSoNostalgia” YouTube channel.


USWNT Turns 35:

A total of 236 women have earned at least one cap for the senior national team.
>>> 40 players have accumulated more than 100 caps (most recently Crystal Dunn and Julie Ertz), 11 have earned more than 200 appearances, and Kristine Lilly (352) and Christie Rampone (311) are the only players (women or men) worldwide to earn more than 300 caps.


>>> The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has seen 56 of its players suit up for the senior national team, far more than other college soccer program. [The UNC media guide lists 59 players, but that includes Lindsey Horan, who declared for but never attended the school, plus two players whose only appearance for the USWNT came in an unofficial match.] There has never been a US World Cup or Olympic women’s team without a Tar Heel on the roster. The remaining schools in the top 5 of USWNT alma maters are Santa Clara (17), Stanford (15), UCLA (13) and Virginia (12).

>>> The youngest player to debut for the USWNT is Mia Hamm, who earned her first cap at the age of 15 in early August 1987 against China. She is the only 15-year-oldto play for the senior team (although Kristine Lilly, who earned her first cap in the same game, was just two weeks past her 16th birthday). In 35 years, more than 70 teenagers have played for the USWNT, but only three have done so in the last ten years — Lindsay Horan (first cap March 2013, age 18), Mallory Pugh (first cap January 2016, age 17) and Tierna Davidson (first cap January 2018, age 19).



>>> The oldest player to earn her first USWNT cap is McCall Zerboni, who debuted in October 2017 against South Korea, just a couple of months before her 31st birthday. She is one of just three players to earn her first cap after turning 30. The other two are Gina Lewandowski (October 2015 vs. Brazil) and Jill Rutten (September 1998 vs. Mexico).




In 35 years, the USWNT have played a total of 672 matches against 50 different opponents.

>>> The USWNT have recorded 529 wins, 66 losses and 77 ties since August 1985. Win #500 came in November 2018 with a 1-0 victory over Portugal. Jessica McDonald scored the game-winner in the team’s final match that year.



>>> The team with the most wins over the USWNT is Norway, with 19 in 50 meetings all-time. Only 16 opponents have claimed victory over the Americans, and the USWNT losses to Norway, China (9) and Sweden (6) account for more than half of the team’s total defeats (66).

>>> The USWNT has faced Canada more than any other opponent — 60 times (50 wins, 3 losses, 7 ties) since the teams first met in July 1986. The rest of the top 5 opponent list features China (58 meetings, 36-9-13), Norway (50, 29-19-2), Sweden (40, 23-6-11) and Mexico (39, 37-1-1). The first-ever USWNT win, home game and shutout all came against Canada (July 1986).

>>> Half of the USWNT’s opponents have been UEFA (European) teams. The American have faced only two African teams (Nigeria and South Africa) and just two Oceania teams (New Zealand and Australia, before the Aussies left the OFC to join the Asian Football Confederation).

>>> The USWNT have played more than 30 games in one calendar year four times, always in an Olympic year. The team played a program-record 41 matches in 2000 (earning silver in Sydney), 36 games in 2008 (winning gold in Beijing), 34 games in 2004 (claiming gold in Athens) and 32 in 2012 (winning gold in London).



The USWNT have scored 2077 goals in 672 international matches, for an average of more than 3 goals per game.

>>> The Americans were shut out by Italy in their very first game in 1985 (they even missed a second-half penalty attempt), but scored twice in their next game versus Denmark. There are conflicting first-hand accounts as to who scored the first USWNT goal, Michelle Akers or Emily Pickering, but the general consensus gives the honor to Akers.

>>> The USWNT recorded its first win the following July, a 2-0 victory over Canada in the first game on home soil. Marcia McDermott, currently part of Sky Blue FC’s technical staff, scored the first goal, which ended up being the game-winner. McDermott also recorded the first USWNT brace in a 3-1 win over Japan a few weeks later.

>>> Carin Jennings Gabarra scored the first USWNT hat trick in the team’s opening game of the 1988 FIFA Women’s Invitation Tournament, helping the Americans defeat Japan 5-2. That first-ever FIFA-sanctioned women’s tournament was an experiment to see if a full Women’s World Cup-style tournament would be feasible (answer — yes).

>>> Brandi Chastain became the first USWNT player to score more than three goals in one game, and she did it in just one half. In the team’s first Women’s World Cup qualifier in April 1991, the USA topped Mexico 12-0, and Chastain scored five of those goals as a second-half sub. Seven other USWNT player have since scored 5 goals in one game: Michelle Akers (1991 WWC quarterfinal vs. Chinese Taipei), Tiffeny Milbrett (2002 Concacaf qualifier vs. Panama), Abby Wambach (2004 friendly vs. Ireland), Amy Rodriguez (2012 Olympic qualifier vs. Dominican Republic), Sydney Leroux (2012 Olympic qualifier vs. Guatemala), Crystal Dunn (2016 Olympic qualifier vs. Puerto Rico) and Alex Morgan (2019 WWC group stage vs. Thailand).



>>> Seven USWNT players have scored at least 100 international goals (only 17 players total have accomplished this feat, all women). The first to reach 100 goals was Mia Hamm, on September 18, 1998 vs. Russia. She retired in 2004 with 158 international goals, the world record at the time. The other six who have reached or surpassed 100 goals are (in chronological order by date of 100th goal) Michelle Akers (107 goals), Kristine Lilly (130), Tiffeny Milbrett (100), Abby Wambach (184, world record from June 2013 through January 2020), Carli Lloyd (123 through March 2020), and Alex Morgan (107 through March 2020).



>>> The youngest goalscorer in USWNT history is Kristine Lilly, who scored against China in the second game of her international career. It was August 13, 1987 and she was not yet a month past her 16th birthday. Lilly is also the oldest USWNT goalscorer — she scored her final international goal (#130 of her career) in May 2010, at the age of 38, against Germany.



>>> The USWNT has scored more than 10 goals in a single game a total of 12 times in program history, the most recent occurence being last summer against Thailand in the group stage of the Women’s World Cup (13 goals). The team record for goals in a single game is 14 goals, set in January 2012 during Concacaf Olympic qualifying. All but two of the USWNT double-digit-goal games came versus Concacaf opponents.



>>> A total of 21 USWNT players have scored in their international debut, including Michelle Akers and Emily Pickering in the team’s second game 1985 as mentioned above (neither player appeared in the first USWNT match). Three players of those 21 players netted a brace in their first game — Cindy Parlow (January 1996 vs. Russia), Sherrill Kester (January 2000 vs. Czech Republic) and Christen Press (February 2013 vs. Scotland). The youngest player to score in her USWNT debut was also Parlow.



>>> Two players scored their first international goal less than a minute after entering the game — Lynn Williams scored 49 seconds into her debut on October 19, 2016 vs. Switzerland. Just days later, debutante Kealia Watt (then Ohai) broke Williams’ record by scoring 48 seconds into her first senior international game.



>>> A total of 12 extra-time goals have been scored in USWNT history, three of them during the “golden goal” era (1993 – 2003). The first USWNT extra-time goal (which was also the team’s first golden goal) was scored by Tammy Pearman against Norway in August 1995. The game was Pearman’s first cap for the USA. The other two golden goals came from Shannon MacMillan in the 1996 Olympic final vs. Norway, and from Mia Hamm in the 2002 Concacaf Women’s Gold Cup final vs. Canada.




Look for more “USWNT Turns 35” posts this week on

Leave a Reply