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Hamm, Wambach, Morgan lead U.S. Soccer’s all-time women’s best XI (but no Solo, Milbrett)

Dec 19, 2013, 6:39 PM EST

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Abby Wambach, Mia Hamm, and Kristine Lilly were among the icons recognized by U.S. Soccer today, the federation naming its all-time women’s best XI as part of their ongoing centennial celebration. Striving to honor players’ legacies,  longevity and overall performance, and contribution on the field (especially in World Cups), 11 players are chosen by a 56-member panel of media, administrators, and former players, with results leaning heavily toward the team that won the 1999 World Cup.

The top of the team’s 4-3-3 formation features one of the panel’s unanimous selections, with Hamm’s 275-cap, 158-goal career making the two-time World Cup-winner an obvious pick. Abby Wambach, having recently passed Hamm as the program’s all-time leading scorer (163 goals), garnered 52 votes, while Alex Morgan, the team’s youngest player (24), named on 15 ballots.

In midfield, Michelle Akers and Kristine Lilly each fell one vote short of unanimous selection, while Julie Foudy received 40 votes. Akers concluded her 16-year tenure in 2000 with 105 goals, having been considered the best player in the world for much of her career. Lilly is the most capped player in program history with 352 appearances, while Foudy played in four World Cups and three Summer Olympics.

At the back, Joy Fawcett was the team’s second unanimous selection, the 239-time international having played key roles in the 1995, 1999, and 2003 World Cups. She is joined by current national team captain Christie Rampone and fellow “`99ers” Carla Overbeck and Brandi Chastain. Rampone has featured at eight major tournaments (four World Cups; four Olympics), Overbeck made 168 appearances in her 13-year international career, while Chastain is best known for converting the final penalty kick in the 1999 World Cup final’s shootout.

The goalkeeper on that 1999 team, Briana Scurry, garnered 31 votes, the panel acknowledging a career that also featured two goal medals (1996 and 2004). Her selection over Hope Solo, however, maybe be a slightly controversial one, with some seeing the current U.S. No. 1 as the superior player. Given the criteria U.S. Soccer put forth, however, the selection makes sense. The panel was asked to give extra weight contributions to World Cups, and while Scurry has been part of a world champion, Solo is still waiting for her first World Cup winner’s medal.

A more controversial selection should be Alex Morgan’s, though with only 15 votes, the current star’s selection is more the result of a fractured vote than the product of some broad consensus. Why that consensus didn’t form around Tiffeny Milbrett, however, deserves some consideration. Milbrett’s 15-year international career ended in 2005 after 204 appearances and 100 goals. She made two Olympic teams, four World Cups, led the team in goals during U.S.A. 1999, and won a gold medal in 1999. Morgan has the bigger name now and, in 134 few games, a better goal rate, but honoring Milbrett’s achievements above Morgan’s four-year international career should have been a no-brainer.

But given the nature of these types of honors, it’s no surprise there’s a blemish in the results, particularly the one that acknowledges a player that’s had such a huge effect beyond the field. And perhaps the team leans a little too much toward the `99ers – players who performed in a less competitive international landscape. But with those careers having finished, it’s easier to evaluate their contributions. Players like Solo and Carli Lloyd are still building their legacies.

For a team being selected to celebrate a centennial, landing on the side of history is best. Given the huge influence the 1999 team has had on women’s soccer in the United States, nobody will fault the panel for defaulting to the those legends in selecting the federation’s all-time best XI.

The full team, as grabbed from U.S. Soccer:

Goalkeeper – Briana Scurry 1994-2008 (31 votes)

Defender – Brandi Chastain 1988-2004 (31)
Defender – Joy Biefeld (Fawcett) 1987-2004 (56)
Defender – Carla Werden (Overbeck) 1988-2000 (49)
Defender – Christie Rampone (Pearce) 1997-present (46)

Midfielder – Michelle Akers 1985-2000 (55)
Midfielder – Julie Foudy 1988-2004 (40)
Midfielder – Kristine Lilly 1987-2010 (55)

Forward – Mia Hamm 1987-2004 (56)
Forward – Alex Morgan 2010-present (15)
Forward – Abby Wambach 2001-present (52)

And again, copied from U.S. Soccer, here are all the eligible players and (in parenthesis) their vote totals:

GOALKEEPERS :
Briana Scurry (31), Hope Solo (24), Mary Harvey (1)

DEFENDERS :
Joy Biefeld Fawcett (56), Carla Werden Overbeck (49), Christie Rampone Pearce (46), Brandi Chastain (31), Kate Markgraf Sobrero (9), Lori Chalupny (5), Ali Krieger (2), Rachel Buehler (1), Linda Hamilton (1), Heather Mitts (1), Cat Reddick Whitehill (1), Stephanie Lopez Cox (0), Lori Henry (0), Amy LePeilbet (0), Kelli O’Hara (0)

MIDFIELDERS :
Michelle Akers (55), Kristine Lilly (55), Julie Foudy (40), Shannon Boxx (13), Carli Lloyd (13), Shannon MacMillan (8), Megan Rapinoe (6), Heather O’Reilly (5), Shannon Higgins (4), Tobin Heath (1), Tiffany Roberts (1), Tisha Venturini (1), Lauren Holiday Cheney (0), Lorrie Fair (0), Angela Hucles (0), Lindsay Tarpley (0), Aly Wagner (0)

FORWARDS :
Mia Hamm (56), Abby Wambach (52), Alex Morgan (15), Carin Gabarra Jennings (13), April Heinrichs (12), Tiffeny Milbrett (10), Cindy Parlow Cone (1), Sydney Leroux (0), Amy Rodriguez (0)

  1. mdac1012 - Dec 19, 2013 at 7:34 PM

    I think we could win a few games with that team.

  2. Matthew - Dec 19, 2013 at 8:11 PM

    Reblogged this on Carolina Mountain Blue.

  3. danielofthedale - Dec 19, 2013 at 8:40 PM

    I don’t really watch or follow the women’s team but it seem like Morgan is a bit of early addition to this team. Has here mere four years on the National Team really been better than the entire careers of other forwards or midfielders that played two or three times as long? Seems like she would be lock on this team down the road but right now it seems a bit prisoner of the moment.

  4. taylor100l - Dec 19, 2013 at 8:42 PM

    Well Milbrett was a great player and her stats back it up, I would have liked to seen Gabarra for her body of work including 1991 WWC Golden Boot award winner. No doubt Alex has the potential to not  only be great (already a top forward), but the greatest player in USWNT or…. But as you stated she just started. I almost feel it’s a disservice on two fronts: 1) overlooked players in Best XI and 2) the apparent expectation that Alex will crank out almost 30g and 20a each year – that’s insane. I’m not saying she won’t do something similar in future years but that’s unrealistic expectations she will have to live up to. There is a reason why it’s rarely happened. 

    I gather Alex’s fledging career has had such an effect on not only women’s soccer but soccer in the US and women Sports worldwide that was taken into consideration? And if we evaluated Alex on field performance alone it’s hard to argue that her performances in the top competition isn’t one of the best. 2011 WWC, Alex was one big reason they even qualified in the tourney with that late goal. And then in the WWC 2011 she scored in the semifinal and then potentially scores the game winner in the final and when that didn’t she sent a perfect cross to Wambach in extra time. Then of course her Olympic performance doesn’t need to be said outside the crazy header vs Canada. 

    Is it early to include Morgan? Yes, but you could make the case for her legacy in pop culture and her contributions in big competitions. 

    • Richard Farley - Dec 19, 2013 at 10:25 PM

      I would have definitely voted for Milbrett, but I do regret not mentioning Gabarra at all. She deserved a mention somewhere in the post. She was a very good player who would not have been out of place on this team.

      • kernelthai - Dec 23, 2013 at 10:53 PM

        It’s forgotten in 99er hysteria that Gabarra was the best player at the 91 WC. The best player at the 99 WC was Chinese.

  5. bishopofblunder - Dec 19, 2013 at 9:38 PM

    I’ve never been a big fan of the “they don’t get as much credit because they didn’t have as much competition” school of thought (a.k.a., the “Wilt Chamberlain Argument”). Therefore, I’m okay with leaning a bit more toward the “99ers”.

  6. hildezero - Dec 19, 2013 at 9:48 PM

    Why a 4-3-3 formation? Why not 4-4-2?

    • danielofthedale - Dec 19, 2013 at 10:04 PM

      I would think Morgan got more votes than the fourth place midfielder. I hope that is how it went any way.

      • Richard Farley - Dec 19, 2013 at 10:06 PM

        I’ll add the vote totals to the post.

        Sorry all, should have done that earlier.

  7. tomcatfl - Dec 20, 2013 at 11:17 AM

    The four people who did *not* put Abby on their ballot should be locked in a room with the 5th dentist who does not recommend sugarless gum, and brought out once a year to be laughed at for cluelessness

    • kapusmc - Dec 20, 2013 at 1:55 PM

      That stood out immediately. She could quite possibly be the most dominant female athlete I’ve ever seen. Those 4 that left her off the ballot shouldn’t be allowed to vote best costume at a Halloween party.

      • tomcatfl - Dec 23, 2013 at 10:49 AM

        I don’t believe for a second that four people just didn’t think Abby was good enough to be one of the top 2 or 3 forwards.

        I suppose there could have been a few people who think Mia should be the only unanimous choice – in the same way that some voters think that the Baseball Hall of Fame should distinguish between “first ballot” inductees and everyone else, and will vote against some players in their first year, while fully intending to vote for them later. Personally, I find that whole idea misguided, but whatever.

        However, I hope there was nothing worse going through those four people’s minds…

  8. kernelthai - Dec 23, 2013 at 11:01 PM

    The only criteria necessary for this vote is Im going the WC and u can pick any 11 players in their prime to put out there. Instead, by putting extra value on longevity and WC performance they dictated the vote. Answer me this. If WC r key how many WC failure does it take to overcome one victory? The answer is apparently not three.

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