NOT COUNTING NBA-stocked Olympic basketball squads, the women's national soccer team is the most galvanizing force the U.S. sends onto the international athletic stage. Since the Women's World Cup debuted in 1991—read the origin story on page 54; listen to it by downloading SI's Throwback series wherever you get your podcasts—the U.S. has won three of the seven tournaments. (Germany, with two, is the only other nation with multiple Cups.) The USWNT has been No. 1 in the world rankings since June 2017; it has never been lower than No. 2.
The Americans have been soccer superwomen, yes, but they represent far more. Brandi Chastain's shirtless World Cup celebration, 20 years ago this summer, made her an instant icon of female empowerment. Retired star Abby Wambach is an activist for women's equality; current stars Megan Rapinoe (page 32) and Alex Morgan are leading a lawsuit against U.S. Soccer to narrow the pay gap between men and women. "Playing on this team comes with a certain weight when it comes to being in the public eye," defender Becky Sauerbrunn told Yahoo! Sports last week. "It's also one of the blessings of being on this team, that you have a chance to impact and to inspire."
Bringing us to this issue, our preview of the 2019 Women's World Cup, which kicks off in France on June 7. We wanted the cover to honor not only the entire USWNT but also the impact their fighting spirit has on their young fans. So for a photo shoot in San Jose last month we invited U-8, U-9 and U-10 players from the California Thorns and De Anza Force North, two U.S. Soccer Development Academy teams in the Bay Area, to pose with the World Cup squad.
The result: Six collector newsstand covers that, when laid side by side, feature 23 world-class players and 23 next-gen hopefuls. (Subscribers will receive a seventh cover with a variation of the same theme; go to backissues.si.com to order any of the seven.) Winning the World Cup—that's the U.S.'s ultimate goal in France. But the looks on those girls' faces prove that this team's impact will be felt long after a trophy moment.
June 3, 2019
Cover 1 USWNT: Alyssa Naeher, Mallory Pugh, Samantha Mewis, Becky Sauerbrunn; Youth: Marie Djacga, Scarlett Costa, Isabella Guillebeaux, Sadie Goldberg
Cover 2 USWNT: Kelley O'Hara, Morgan Brian, Abby Dahlkemper, Julie Ertz; Youth: Mariana Nanez, Sofia Mello, Rishika Kothari
Cover 3 USWNT: Lindsey Horan, Carli Lloyd, Ali Krieger, Tierna Davidson; Youth: Delaney Miskella, Avery Edson, Isabella Cain, Emmy Salita
Cover 4 USWNT: Alex Morgan, Emily Sonnett, Megan Rapinoe, Rose Lavelle; Youth: Madison Bowen, Kayla Sims, Neirah Hafis, Sophie Stewart
Cover 5 USWNT: Tobin Heath, Ashlyn Harris, Crystal Dunn, Allie Long; Youth: Claire Chen, Hannah Goldberg, Molly Grodzinsky, Emmalina Abou-Assaleh
Cover 6 USWNT: Adrianna Franch, Jessica McDonald, Christen Press; Youth: Addison Subala, Sophia Kennedy-Contreras, Sophia Malloy, Katie Lu