SI Vault
Michael Bamberger
December 20, 1999
Michelle Akers and the 19 other members of the World Cup-winning U.S. soccer team gave America a summer to savor forever
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December 20, 1999

Dream Come True

Michelle Akers and the 19 other members of the World Cup-winning U.S. soccer team gave America a summer to savor forever

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...through the perilous fight....

...O'er the ramparts we watch'd....

...were so gallantly streaming?...
"You feelin' all right?"

...And the rocket's red glare....
"Akers, will you cut me a break?"

...the bombs bursting in air....
"Good Lord, Foudy."

...Gave proof through the night....
"It was that lunch!"

...that our flag was still there....
"Yeah, I'll say."

This indelicate conversation between Michelle Akers and Julie Foudy occurred at 12:55 p.m., PDT, on Saturday, July 10, 1999, at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena while Hanson sang the national anthem. Every bit of dialogue, like every ticket stub and every penalty kick connected to that time and place, has now assumed a heightened importance. It was on July 10 that the U.S. women's soccer team faced China for the championship of the third Women's World Cup, the first one played in the U.S. At the Rose Bowl, the most storied football stadium in the country, a body filled every seat. The announced crowd was 90,185, the largest ever to see a women's sporting event. Today, five months later, a million people will swear to you that they were there.

It was the most significant day in the history of women's sports, bearing the fruit of the passage of Title IX in 1972 and surpassing by a long shot that burn-your-bra night in '73 when Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs, the late goofball showman, in a made-for-TV tennis spectacle at the Houston Astrodome. That night's drama, of course, required the services of a man. The three-act play performed at the Rose Bowl—the game, the overtime, the shootout—required nothing but women, 40 of them (44 if you want to include the match's four officials). In the final summer of the 20th century, the era of the woman in sports finally arrived.

You know what happened. Neither team could score a goal in the 90 minutes of regulation play. Neither team could score in the two 15-minute periods of sudden-death overtime. China converted four of its five penalty kicks. Briana Scurry, the U.S. goalkeeper, stopped the third of China's bullets from 12 yards out by doing what every NBA forward does under the boards, stretching the rules as much as possible without getting caught. The U.S. scored on each of its five attempts, the last of which came off the golden left foot of defender Brandi Chastain, who, in her shirtless postkick exuberance, revealed that the rest of her is golden too. During all this madness—120 minutes in which no goals were scored, followed by 10 furious minutes in which nine balls found the back of the net—toes across the nation were curled like Palmer-method q's taught in grammar school.

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