Soccer Fever: The 1999 Women’s World Cup

By Kelsey Ontko, Julia Fogleman and Lucas Nevola
Edited and Updated by Bryan Silverman (2013)

The MLS is stuggling and the WUSA folded a decade ago, yet there is still a strong desire among many to get soccer into the mainstream sports culture in the United States.  This goal isn’t as misguided as it might seem.  In fact, the recent soccer league “eruption” in the U.S. mostly stems from a summer in 1999.  That summer, Americans loved soccer.

It will be tough to replicate, but the 1999 Women’s World Cup team captured the hearts of Americans.



The World Cup that year filled stadiums and caused traffic jams across California.  “For the final in the Rose Bowl, 90,185 fans crammed into a football stadium for women’s soccer, the largest crowd ever to watch a women’s sporting event in the United States and, presumably, the world.” [1]

The mix of nationalism and simply entertaining soccer gave people a fever, and the only prescription was more soccer—or so investors thought.

But the WUSA lost millions.  Perhaps it was because the league got too big too fast.  Perhaps it was the fact that existing talent was spread too thin.  But soccer never caught on like the way it had during the 1999 World Cup. And the MLS, created in 1993 to coincide with the 1994 Men’s World Cup hosted in the United States, didn’t see much of a surge in interest from the events of 1999 either.

What this shows is that while many Americans obviously enjoy soccer, there needs to be near-perfect conditions for the sport to draw large crowds.  The league needs to have the best players, and not be watered down in the least.  In a perfect world it would also have many great American players, although the best players in the world do not hail from the United States.

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How to cite this article: Kelsey Ontko, Julia Fogleman and Lucas Nevola, “Soccer Fever: The 1999 Women’s World Cup,” Soccer Politics Pages (accessed on (date)).

[1] Jere Longman.  The Girls of Summer.  Harper.  New York.  2000. Pg 3.


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