Mariel Margaret Hamm, better known as Mia Hamm, was born on March 17, 1972 in Selma, Alabama. She played forward many years for the United States women’s national soccer team, and scored more international goals (158) than any other player, male or female, in the history of the game.
Hamm is one of the most famous female athletes in the world, an icon of women’s sports, and an inspiration and role model to scores of sports-minded young girls. One of the first to benefit from gender equality rights after Title IX was passed; she received college scholarships, endorsements and training opportunities in her climb to becoming a top superstar. Mia Hamm won the women’s FIFA World Player of the Year award in the first two years that it was established (2001 and 2002). She made Pelé’s list of one of FIFA’s 125 best living players and The Washington Post columnist Michael Wilbon called Hamm, “Perhaps the most important athlete of the last 15 years”.
Mia enrolled in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and helped lead the Tar Heels to four NCAA women’s championships in five years. In 95 games that Mia played, the Tar Heels only lost one. She was All-American and Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year for her last three years and also won ACC Female Athlete of the Year in 1993 and 1994. Mia also had a stint with the Sweetwater Red Devils in National City, California.
In 1991, at age 19, Hamm became the youngest American woman to win a World Cup championship when the US women’s national team won the FIFA Women’s World Cup for the first time. Also, Mia played for the American National college team in the 1993 Summer Universiade losing to China, but gaining the silver medal. She was leading scorer with 6 goals and graduated college with all-conference records of 103 goals, 72 assists and 278 total points.
In a game against Brazil on May 22, 1999, in Orlando, Florida, Hamm broke the all-time international goal record with her 158th goal. Also in 1999, Nike named the largest building on their corporate campus after Hamm, and in that same year she helped lead the Women’s national team to it’s second FIFA Women’s World Cup victory final, a match that surpassed the Atlanta Olympic final as the most-attended women’s sports event, with over 90,000 filling the Rose Bowl.
She helped lead Team USA to a gold medal at the 2004 Olympics and was chosen by her fellow U.S. Olympians to carry the American flag at the Athens Closing Ceremonies. After the Olympics, Hamm and her teammates went on a “farewell tour” of the U.S., with the scheduled last game against Mexico, December 8, 2004. Hamm had 2 assists in that game and the U.S. went on the win 5-0.
Mia Hamm retired from the soccer in 2004 after the “farewell tour”. She was selected for induction into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in her first year of eligibility by receiving 137 of 141 ballots cast. She was also inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame on March 11, 2008.