Mariel Magret "Mia" Hamm helped bring the women’s game to new heights over the course of her 17-year career. She was the best-known player in the USA women’s national team that dominated the global scene in the 1990s and her 275 caps are a testament to consistency, ability and stamina. The Alabama native made her international debut at just 15 years of age and went on to score 158 goals for the USA – the international goal scoring record recently surpassed by fellow American Abby Wambach.
In Atlanta in 1996 Hamm became Olympic champion, this was followed by a silver medal in 2000 at the Olympic Games in Sydney and was capped in 2004 with more Olympic hardware, this time gold again in Athens, Greece. She was part of the US teams that won the first FIFA Women's World Cup™ in China in 1991 and in the USA in 1999, when the women’s game captured the attention of the world and packed some of the biggest stadia in North America. She also participated in the 1995 Women's World Cup in Sweden, where Hamm helped the US to the bronze medal, and the 2003 Women’s World Cup on home soil in which the Americans finished a disappointing third.
In addition to unquestionable success on the pitch, Hamm was for years a role model for aspiring younger generations of girls who for so long lacked an icon to look up to. Sponsors came out in force to take full advantage and Hamm – shy and modest off the field – became in many significant ways the face of women’s football. "In short, I'm just a football player. I've not freed any slaves or changed the world. I just play football and enjoy my success," Hamm once said, speaking to the humility that defines her as a player and a person.
One person unwilling to share Hamm’s limited perception of her impact is Pele, arguably the greatest player in the history of football, the Brazilian naming Hamm and teammate Michelle Akers as the only female members of the FIFA 100, a collection of the greatest living footballers as selected by O‘ Rei himself. “When Mia has the ball at her feet, you have the feeling that something great will happen." These words, from team-mate Julie Foudy, probably best describe Mia Hamm the footballer.