ON THIS DATE in 1987, fifteen-year-old Mia Hamm became the youngest-ever member of the U.S. national soccer team. Over the next 18 years she would score 158 international goals, more than any player ever, female or male. Hamm led the U.S. to gold medals in the 1996 and 2004 Olympics and to victory in the 1999 World Cup Championship.
In 2012, ESPN High School counted down the top 40 female athletes since the 1972 passage of Title IX (which gave female sports equal access to public school funding) and ranked Hamm number one, with tennis player Martina Navratilova, track star Jackie Joyner Kersee, golfer Annika Sorenstam, and basketball player Lisa Leslie rounding out the top five.
ESPN The Magazine’s Luke Cypher called Hamm “a symbol of what women’s sports can be” and Donna de Varona, chairwoman of the 1999 World Cup games, told CNN.com, “When you look at women’s sports and women’s soccer, you just say, Mia Hamm.”