The 1991 FIFA World Cup in China marked the beginning of women’s soccer on the biggest stage. The U.S. arrived with a team full of young players who would forever change the course of women’s soccer in the United States. But before there was Brandi Chastain ripping her shirt off in the Rose Bowl, there was the 1991 World Cup Champions who quietly set the standard for all teams moving forward. Here's a look at the starting XI players who won the '91 title.
Mary Harvey – Goalkeeper
Harvey started every game in goal for the U.S. at the ‘91 World Cup and was a key backup in the 1995 World Cup. After her playing career ended, Harvey was the COO of Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS), the second installment of a women’s pro league in the U.S., for two years. She also held a position as FIFA’s Director of Development, becoming the first woman and first American to run a business division of FIFA as a member of senior management. Most recently, Harvey served as a State Department sport envoy in Canada during the Women’s World Cup in 2015.
Carla Overbeck – Defender
Overbeck, née Werden, played on the first two U.S. World Cup winning teams in ‘91 and ‘99 and was also an Olympic Gold Medalist at the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney. Overbeck became one of the founding players for the Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA), the first women’s soccer league in the U.S., and won a WUSA championship in 2002 with the Carolina Courage. Despite continuing to play until 2000, Overbeck became an assistant coach at Duke in 1992 and remains at that position to this day.
Joy Fawcett – Defender
Fawcett, née Biefeld, is one of the most capped players in National Team history, finishing with 241 caps, 236 of which were starts. Despite having three kids during her playing career, Fawcett is the only national team member to play all minutes of the 1995, 1999 and 2003 World Cups. These days Fawcett stays involved in the game as an assistant coach for the United States Deaf Women’s National Team that won the 2016 Deaf World Cup.
Linda Hamilton – Defender
One of the lesser known players from the ‘91 squad, Hamilton turned to coaching during and after her career was over. She started the women’s soccer program at Old Dominion in 1994 and went on to be an assistant at Hofstra in 2006 and a head coach at the University of North Florida in 2008 before settling at her current job as Southwestern head coach. Hamilton was also a part of the group that traveled to Brazil in 2011 to conduct soccer clinics on behalf of the U.S. Department of State.
Julie Foudy – Midfielder
Possibly the most visible of players from this team, Julie Foudy has enjoyed a long career with ESPN. After registering 274 caps with the national team, Foudy joined ESPN full time in 2005 as a women’s soccer and FIFA World Cup analyst. She is currently the lead voice for the network’s coverage of FIFA Women’s World Cups but has also reported on several FIFA Men’s World Cups, including the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Kristine Lilly – Midfielder
The national team Iron Woman, Lilly completed her career with 354 caps, the most in U.S. National Team history. Lilly ended her career as a member of the Boston Breakers (WPS) in 2011, 20 years after winning her first of two World Cup titles. Lilly currently runs the TeamFirst Soccer Academy with former teammates Mia Hamm and Tisha Venturini Hoch and coaches at the University of Texas as a volunteer assistant.
Shannon Higgins-Cirovski – Midfielder
Higgins-Cirovski was the lesser known of the four USWNT midfielders, but she assisted on both of Michelle Akers’ goals in the ‘91 championship game and was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2002. Cirovski retired after that game despite only being 23 years old and turned to coaching at George Washington University, a team she took over right before the World Cup. After several other coaching positions, Higgins-Cirovski resigned as head coach of the University of Maryland women’s soccer team in 2006. Her coaching retirement didn’t last long, though, and she now coaches her on several of her daughters’ teams.
Mia Hamm – Midfielder
Mia Hamm went on to become arguably the most popular American women’s soccer player ever, and players like Alex Morgan have pointed to her as inspiration for their own careers. Since her retirement she has largely stayed out of the spotlight, resurfacing for Heather O’Reilly’s retirement game in September. She is also a part of the ownership group for LAFC, the new MLS team in Los Angeles.
April Heinrichs – Forward
As the captain of the ‘91 team, Heinrichs became the first woman to be elected into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 1998. She took over the head coaching job for the Women’s National Team in 2000 and retired after a gold medal finish in Athens. After stints as the head coach at UC-Irvine and with the Olympic Committee, Heinrichs accepted a position with the US Soccer Federation in 2011 as technical director for women’s soccer, a position she still holds.
Michelle Akers – Forward
Top goalscorer of the ‘91 World Cup, Akers continued her success until her retirement shortly before the 2000 Summer Olympics. After her playing career, Akers turned to a different passion and began the Michelle Akers Horse Rescue & Outreach Inc., a company that rescues abused horses and nurses them back to health. Most recently, Akers spoke out against Jill Ellis after a 2-0 loss to France leading up to the World Cup. Akers believed Tony DiCicco, her coach for the 1999 World Cup Championship Team, should take over and lead the team to victory. Ellis and the U.S. went on to win the World Cup, so no harm no foul.
Carin Gabarra – Forward
Gabarra, née Jennings, was the Golden Ball winner of the ‘91 World Cup, also winning the Silver Boot after finishing as the No. 2 scorer behind Akers. In 1993 Gabarra took over the Naval Academy Women’s Soccer program and took them from a club organization to one of the top mid major varsity programs in the country. Gabarra has amassed over 300 wins with Navy and at one point the program had produced 21 consecutive winning seasons.