Never Done Rising
Department of Nike Archives
Get inspired by the '99ers historic victory that elevated the game to new heights for athletes everywhere.
What would it feel like to step onto the pitch of football's biggest stage? To feel the swell of pride as your team worked together to win it all? To score the winning goal? And to bring home a world title for your country?
This is what the 1999 US Women's National Team—the legendary '99ers—accomplished. The dramatic, incredible, guts-and-glory-filled victory instantly became a top moment in US sport history in terms of impact. While the victory was years—decades, really—in the making, the '99ers minted a whole new generation of female footballers across the world.
Leading up to the USWNT's historic victory in 1999, there were limited opportunities for female footballers to go pro. It wasn't until 1950 that the first organised women's football league was formed in the United States with a grand total of four teams. In 1972, with the passing of Title IX, women's football blossomed in the US, becoming an increasingly popular sport and recreation. But it wasn't until 1985 that US Football officially formed the USWNT.
By 1999, the team had come into its own, with a bright young star from Selma, Alabama—Mia Hamm, who became Nike's first female football athlete in 1994. With the spotlight on and a battle-tested team in place, the USWNT was ready to shine on football's biggest stage. On 10 July 1999, one team would make history, in an event that came to symbolise so much more than a game.
The game itself was an absolute back-and-forth grind; after regulation and overtime, the score was still 0-0, which meant the game would go to penalty kicks. The final sequence, where the USWNT emerged victorious 5–4 after Brandi Chastain's historic final strike, became one of the most triumphant announcements in the history of US sport.
Despite being an American team, the USWNT's influence extends across the globe. More young women are on the pitch and more athletes fight for equity. The '99ers represented a movement that began in 1972, with Title IX. Now, they're part of something much larger, as the next generation takes the reigns on defining the next era of their legacy.