Though the United States is often considered a second-rate soccer nation, by raw numbers it’s actually the #1 country in the world for participation at the youth level. This is especially true among girls. In the most recent FIFA global survey of registered youth players, 1.6 million girls were registered with the U.S. Soccer Federation, which was more than all other countries combined.
With so many American girls spending their formative years on a soccer pitch, it’s no surprise that the U.S. Women’s National Team has become a world power. And since they’d come into the most recent Women’s World Cup in Argentina as the heavy favorite, the U.S. team’s eventual 3-1 victory over Sweden in the championship game was not the story everyone was talking about.
The media on hand were much more fascinated to discover that, ten years ago, five players in the tournament – from three different nations – had played high school soccer in the same American town.
Attending East Sycamore and West Sycamore High Schools, the five future internationals and their teammates – some future professionals themselves – rode dusty yellow school buses across town, playing each other multiple times, all while still teenagers. It’s a concentration of talent that seems almost impossible and yet, ten years ago, it happened.
This is an oral history of that remarkable season, telling the story through the words of those who lived it. I’ve interviewed as many key participants as possible, some of them famous to millions, others known only to family and friends. Most were interviewed in person, a few over the phone, and everyone is listed with their position or job title from that year.