Last year was the year that changed everything. Two thousand and fifteen represented a watershed period for women’s sports, and the U.S. Women’s National Team was at its epicenter.
From earning the sport’s highest prize to capturing the nation’s hearts and minds, the USWNT OWNED 2015, and they did it in badass fashion. They capped off the year with a farewell to the Greatest of All Time, Abby Wambach, in a city hungry for soccer, New Orleans, and KICKTV was there.
Getting on the USWNT’s level doesn’t just happen though. Check out the 5 easy steps they took to achieve glory.
After a slow and shaky start to the World Cup, the U.S. was the underdog in its semifinal against Germany. Widely considered the best team in the world, and led by mercurial striker Celia Sasic, the Germans had looked unstoppable up until that point. Die Nationalelf had just disposed of who many considered the second best team in the tournament, France.
After a tense first half, it appeared the Germans would take the lead after they were awarded a penalty kick. But then Hope Solo stalled by leaving her net, Sasic missed the shot, and the U.S. pounced like the soon-to-be-World Champions they were. Carli Lloyd converted a penalty for the U.S, and Kelley O’Hara finished off one of the best team goals of the tournament to pull the upset, shock Germany and send the U.S. into the finals.
You know what’s cool? Winning the World Cup. You know what’s even cooler? Winning the World Cup by scoring 4 goals in 16 minutes, INCLUDING a hat trick, INCLUDING an insane half-field strike. The United States and Lloyd did just that against Japan to cruise to a 5-2 win. Those early goals allowed the second half to become an early start to the celebrations and allow veterans Christie Rampone and Abby Wambach to take a final bow. The game smashed broadcast records in the United States, making it the second most-watched soccer match on a single network in U.S. history, and eclipsing ratings numbers set by the NBA Finals, Sunday Night Football and the Sochi Winter Olympic Games.
The USWNT became the first women’s sports team to receive a parade along New York City’s Canyon of Heroes and the first female athlete since 1984, and the scene was BANANAS. Thousands of people crowded into New York City’s Financial District to see the World Champions show off their new hardware and celebrate on the same streets that kings, war heroes, and other world champions have traveled.
While she wasn’t the star of the summer, Abby Wambach achieved her dream of hoisting the World Cup trophy and retired from soccer at the end of 2015, leaving behind her a changed game. Wambach is the all-time leading scorer, anywhere, with 184 goals in international competition, and has been the face of women’s soccer for the past decade. Along with Wambach, several other veterans, including Lauren Holiday, Shannon Boxx and Lori Chalupny all retired from the game, signaling an end of an era for the U.S. Women’s National Team.
While this didn’t TECHNICALLY happen IN 2015, Carli Lloyd won the sport’s most prestigious individual award for turning in one of the most dominant years ever. Have we mentioned her record-breaking hat trick in the first 16 minutes of a World Cup Final? And how one of those goals was a chip from midfield?? Lloyd also scored several key goals earlier in the tournament, netting the crucial penalty against Germany in the semifinals that gave the U.S. a lead, and scoring the only goal in a nervy quarterfinal game against China. Her performance was good enough to earn her the Golden Ball for best player at the tournament, and become just the third American to win the Women’s World Player of the Year.