While the US isn’t currently participating in the World Cup, fans are still in a frenzy to catch the games as they happen, which in Pasadena’s is pretty early in the morning as the tournament is being broadcast from Russia.
Nineteen years ago on July 10, another World Cup took place much closer to home—in Rose Bowl Stadium, as the US team, otherwise known as “The Girls Of Summer,” captured the hearts and minds of fans across the nation as they took the trophy over China.
Of the game at the Rose Bowl, former President Bill Clinton, who was in attendance, said, “The whole country is caught up. It’s going to have a bigger impact than people ever realized, and it will have a far-reaching impact not only in the United States but also in other countries.”
He was right—the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup is considered a milestone in women’s sporting events.
In the three weeks before the US team’s Rose Bowl win, the best female players from around the world gathered in the States to play on a level that women’s sports had not seen before. The Women’s World Cup was finally on equal footing with the male-dominated games of professional sports, as 1999 was the first ever year the tournament was played in stadiums.
Live game attendees, television audiences, and the media responded in kind. 660,000 people attended the games, media outlets covering the tournament were said to be numbered near 2,500, and an estimated 40 million viewers in the US watched as its team climbed higher and higher in the rankings to its inevitable showdown with China at Rose Bowl Stadium.
90,185 fans crammed inside the Bowl and watched as the US team scored 5:4 in a penalty kick by Brandi Chastain which sealed its victory over China.
After the winning move, Chastain ripped off her jersey and dropped to her knees as it became clear she helped her team to not only momentary victory, but into the annals of sports history.
She later reflected saying, “(It was) momentary insanity, nothing more, nothing less. I wasn’t thinking about anything. I thought ‘My God, this is the greatest moment of my life on the soccer field.”
With its record crowds at the Rose Bowl and in the games leading up to it,
women’s soccer found its permanent place in the spotlight, and girls have since taken up the sport in droves.
“Women’s soccer was not anonymous anymore,” Chastain said. “More girls are playing football in America than any other sport. When I played college soccer there were 75 teams. Now there are over 320 teams at the Division One level. Women and men play it alike.”