1999 Women’s World Cup

Originally written by Gretchen Miller, Jonathan Scheyer, and Emily Sherrard in 2009; edited and updated by Gilda Doria in 2013


Link to Main Page Women’s Soccer in the US

The 1999 Women’s World Cup can most certainly be considered the pinnacle of women’s soccer in the United States. When the US women won the first Women’s World Cup held in China 1991 and the Olympic Gold in Atlanta 1996, their victories were hardly noticed. The team had been overlooked in the previous two World Cups, despite winning gold in 1991 and bronze in 1995. “They won the 1996 gold medal at the Summer Olympics in front of 76, 489 screaming fans in Athens, Ga., when NBC could not be bothered showing a minute of women with muscles performing the improvisational genius of soccer” for “just as the United States was pulling out a 2-1 heart-stopper against China, NBC cut away to cover a men’s gymnastics exhibition.” [1] This all changed in the summer of 1999. For three weeks in June and July, the sports spotlight was on women’s soccer. The event could not have more perfect timing. Without any other major sporting events coinciding with the World Cup, Team USA was front and center.

On June 19, 1999 the US Women played Denmark in the opening game of the World Cup. They drew 78,972 fans to Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The only time Giants Stadium held more people was when the pope came in 1995. This was also the largest crowd to ever see a women-only sporting event.[2] Over the course of the three weeks, attendance records would continually be shattered as the US Women’s Soccer team captivated the nation with each goal they scored. The opening game, in which the US defeated Denmark 3-0, was just the beginning. It set the tone for a successful tournament on many levels in terms of athletic performance and gaining momentum for women’s soccer in the United States.

Mia Hamm and Teammates Celebrate in ’99

Team USA continued to bring in large crowds to their games, drawing upon a fan base of mostly young girls from grassroots soccer leagues along with their “soccer moms.” This was a part of the marketing strategy for the 1999 World Cup.  On June 24 when the US defeated Nigeria 7-1 in Chicago 65,080 people were in attendance. 50, 484 watched the 3-0 win over North Korea on June 27 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. For the quarterfinal match against Germany 54,642 cheered the US Women on to a 3-2 victory, and they played in front of a crowd of 73,123 in the semifinal against Brazil at Stanford University on the Fourth of July.[3] These matches were just the prelude leading to the most monumental day of the entire World Cup tournament.

On July 10, the US Women played China in the final of the 1999 Women’s World Cup. A record number of 90,185 people were in attendance at the Rose Bowl for the match, the largest crowd to ever watch a women’s soccer game or a women’s-only sporting event in the history of the world. It was also the most watched soccer game in the US, including any men’s World Cup matches.[4] 40 million people watched the game live on ABC, garnering higher ratings than the finals for both professional hockey and basketball.  “Shattered any lingering belief that no one would pay to watch women play soccer.”[5] The 1999 Women’s World Cup was certainly “the biggest event in the history of women’s sports.”[6] The total attendance for the tournament was 658,167, more than double the attendance for the 1999 women’s NCAA basketball tournament, the previous record-holder for the largest women’s sporting event in the country.[7] Even in the first weekend alone more than 500,000 tickets were sold, nearly 5 times the 112,000 tickets sold throughout the entirety of the 1995 World Cup in Sweden. [8] Perhaps even more impressive, as well as unprecedented, was the fact that all 32 games were televised live on national television.[9]


Mia Hamm vs. Brazil

Participating Teams[10]

  • Ghana
  • Nigeria
  • Australia
  • China
  • Japan
  • Korea
  • Denmark
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • Norway
  • Russia
  • Sweden
  • Canada
  • Mexico
  • USA
  • Brazil

Key Games for Team USA

  • Team USA’s come-from-behind 3-2 win over Germany in the quarterfinal game
  • 2-0 shutout against Brazil in the semifinal
  • US vs. China in the World Cup final

Other Notable Occurrences[11]

  • Brazil vs. Italy in Group B play, Brazil defeated Italy 2-0
  • Brazil’s win 4-3 over Nigeria, the first African team to make it to the quarterfinals of a Women’s World Cup, after trailing 3-0 at the half
  • Russia’s 4-0 win over Canada in Group C play in their first Women’s World Cup appearance
  • Midfielder Kristin Bengtsoon of Sweden scored the second-fastest goal in world cup history in Group D play against China just 2 minutes into the game
  • Norway’s 3-1 win over Sweden in the quarterfinal game, giving Sweden limited chances to score
  • The one goal Sweden scored in the quarterfinal against Norway in injury time allowed them to qualify for the 2000 Olympics at Russia’s expense
  • Ghana made their first appearance at a major international tournament, drawing 1-1 with Canada in their opening game before losing to China (7-0) and Sweden (2-0) in Group D play
  • First goalless tie in World Cup history that went into penalty kicks when Brazil defeated Norway, defending champions, 5-4 putting Norway out of medal contention
  • North Korea’s surprising win over Denmark, defeating them 3-1
  • 8 teams, the best 7 in the quarterfinals plus Australia the host country, qualified for the 2000 Sydney Olympics
  • Results of Matches from FIFA.com

Some Notable Players

  • Brandi Chastain
  • Michelle Akers
  • Mia Hamm
  • Briana Scurry
  • Ann Kristin Aarones of Norway
  • Sissi of Brazil
  • Pretinha of Brazil
  • Mercy Akide of Nigeria
  • Hanna Ljungberg of Sweden
  • Bai Jie of China
  • Sun Wen of China
  • Zhang Ouying of China
  • Hege Riise of Norway the 1995 MVP
  • Bente Nordby of Norway


Sun Wen of China

Sun Wen

Sissi of Brazil

Sissi of Brazil

[1] George Vecsey, “Sports of The Times; No Goals Scored, Two Champions, A Bright Future,” The New York Times, 11 July 1999, sec. 8, p. 1; Karen Bokram, “Field of Dreams,” Girls Life, June/July 1999, 42.

[2]“United States: Girl power plays” The Economist, 26 June 1999, 35.

[3] Andrei S. Markovits and  Steven L. Hellerman, “Women’s Soccer in the United States: Yet Another American ‘Exceptionalism,’” Soccer and Society, 4 (2003): 14-29; Jere Longman, The Girls of Summer: The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team and How it Changed the World (New York: Harper Collins, 2001), 33.

[4] Vecsey, “Sports of The Times; No Goals Scored, Two Champions, A Bright Future;” Markovits and  Hellerman, “Women’s Soccer in the United States: Yet Another American ‘Exceptionalism,’” 22.

[5] Longman “The Girls of Summer,” 13.

[6] Bokram, “Field of Dreams.”

[7] Longman, “The Girls of Summer,” 13.

[8] “United States: Girl power plays” The Economist.

[9] Ibid

[10]FIFA, Women’s World Cup USA 1999 Teams, 2009, available from http://www.fifa.com/tournaments/archive/tournament=103/edition=4644/teams/index.html; Internet; accessed 9 December 2009.

[11]FIFA, Women’s World Cup-USA 1999 Overview, 2009, available from http://www.fifa.com/tournaments/archive/tournament=103/edition=4644/overview.html; Internet, accessed 10 December 2009

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