There are moments in sports—games, plays, epic performances—which become the stuff of legend, memorialized in photographs, and forever cemented into our collective memory. But these moments aren’t the beginning. Rather, they are often the end of a story which began long before, in obscurity, struggle, and even failure. And in order to tell those stories, we need to go back. From Sports Illustrated, this is Throwback, a sports history podcast.
Season 1 tells the origin story of the U.S. women’s national team and the first Women’s World Cup in 1991. Hosted by Grant Wahl, the premier soccer journalist in the U.S., this season will follow the pioneers who defined women’s soccer in America as they evolve from a group of talented but inexperienced misfits and teenagers into an American phenomenon. Featuring the voices of players who became superstars like Mia Hamm, Michelle Akers and Kristine Lilly; their former coach, Anson Dorrance; historians; authors; the woman who first demanded that FIFA hold a Women’s World Cup; and even ex-FIFA President, Sepp Blatter.
Episode 1: The Tsunami Hitting the Shore
The 1999 Women’s World Cup was the first to captivate an American audience. But it wasn’t the first Women’s World Cup—that happened eight years earlier. And barely anyone paid attention. How did the U.S. women go from no-names to superstars? Why did it take so long for FIFA to hold a Women’s World Cup? And what does any of this have to do with ex-FIFA president Sepp Blatter?
Episode 2: Underfunded. Underprepared. Outplayed.
The first U.S. women’s national team didn’t win a single game at its first international competition. So how did they go from complete embarrassment to tournament favorites entering the first Women’s World Cup just six years later?
Episode 3: The Gift of Fury
After years of relentless training, the USWNT was finally ready for the 1st FIFA World Championship for Women’s Football for the M&M’s Cup (aka the first Women’s World Cup). The U.S. women had developed a true American playing style, but this was the world’s game. How would they fare on the biggest stage, against the most dominant players from across the globe?
Episode 4: The FIFA World Championship for the M&Ms Cup
The U.S. absolutely dominated the early parts of the tournament. They scored 23 goals in five games while conceding only four. It all lead up to one decisive final: USA vs Norway, for the first Women’s Wold Cup title.
Episode 5: Grab It
The ’91 U.S. women’s national team pressed, always on the attack. Their playing style and their success were both unprecedented. But winning on the field was just the beginning. Now, they had to bring their relentless mentality to the fight for equality and for all of women’s sports.
Illustrations by Noah MacMillan