Women's soccer has gained recognition in recent decades, attributable to the rise of exceptional talent and historical World Cup moments. Brandi Chastain's game-winning penalty kick in the 1999 Women's World Cup final is one of the most iconic moments in the sport.
In preparation for the 2023 World Cup, let's review the top ten best female soccer players ever.
1. Marta Vieira da Silva (Brazil):
Known as Marta, she is the first woman to have won FIFA's World Player of the Year six times. Her quick footwork, unmatched agility, and powerful shot have consistently made her a formidable adversary.
Marta holds the record for the most goals scored at FIFA Women's World Cup tournaments, with 17 goals. She achieved this feat in 2019, surpassing the previous record of Miroslav Klose of Germany.
From playing street football in her hometown of Dois Riachos, Brazil, Marta has blossomed into the country's leading goal scorer today (115 goals). At 37, Marta plays for the Orlando Pride in the National Women's Soccer League and still averages a goal per game for club and country.
2. Mia Hamm (USA):
Mia Hamm is a trailblazer in women's soccer. She played a crucial part in elevating women's soccer to a global level of recognition in the USA and worldwide — in many ways, she was the sport's first star.
Hamm achieved two FIFA Women's World Cup championships and two Olympic gold medals, leaving a lasting impact on the sport. She even appeared in Gatorade commercials with Michael Jordan and earned an eponymous Nintendo 64 video game.
“I learned a long time ago that there is something worse than missing the goal, and that's not pulling the trigger,” Mia Hamm once said. There's a reason she was the five-time US Women's Athlete of the Year.
3. Abby Wambach (USA):
A dominant force in international women's soccer, Abby Wambach was previously the all-time top-scorer in international play with 184 strikes until Christine Sinclair surpassed that record.
Soccer history will forever remember her iconic header in the 2011 Women's World Cup quarterfinal against Brazil. The US lost to Japan in the finals that year, but Wambach and the team redeemed themselves in 2015.
She also won two gold medals with Team USA.
4. Birgit Prinz (Germany):
Birgit Prinz, a three-time FIFA World Player of the Year, led Germany to two World Cup titles. She's one of the highest-scoring players in World Cup history, with 14 strikes. Naturally, she's Germany's all-time leading goalscorer with 128 goals and caps (214).
She also won the European Championships five times and three-time FIFA Player of the Year.
5. Homare Sawa (Japan):
Sawa was instrumental in Japan's stunning victory at the 2011 Women's World Cup, where she also claimed the tournament's Golden Boot and Golden Ball awards.
Sawa is also an icon of the sport in Japan, as she participated in six World Cups in her storied 22-year international career.
6. Michele Akers (USA):
An essential part of the early US Women's National Team's success, Akers is considered one of the greatest players ever.
Her performance in the inaugural Women's World Cup in 1991, where she scored ten goals, including five in one game against Taiwan, is the stuff of legends.
“It's ok to be scared, but don't let it dictate your actions,” USWNT's Akers once reminded future players.
Akers won her second World Cup title in 1999.
7. Christine Sinclair (Canada):
Christine Sinclair holds the record for the most international goals scored by any player, male or female, with 190 goals. She's also one of the most capped, with 323 appearances.
Her prolific scoring ability and dedication to the Canadian Women's National Team — she's played and scored in five World Cups — make her an undisputed inclusion in this list.
The 40-year-old Sinclair currently plays for the Portland Thorns, where she's 66 goals in 164 appearances.
8. Sun Wen (China):
Named FIFA's Female Player of the Century in 2000, Sun Wen's contribution to women's soccer is undeniable, especially in China, where she's inspired millions of women.
Her career highlight includes a spectacular 1999 Women's World Cup performance, where she won the Golden Ball and Golden Boot.
9. Megan Rapinoe (USA):
Megan Rapinoe is one of only three players to win the Golden Boot, the Golden Ball, and the Women's World Cup in the same tournament.
But that 2019 tournament was merely the start of her athletic achievements and political influence off the field.
Rapinoe is a Ballon d'Or winner known for her activism for equality in sports. In 2022, US President Joe Biden awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.
The veteran winger currently plays for Seattle's OL Reign.
10. Sam Kerr (Australia):
Kerr has proven herself to be one of the most exciting players to watch in recent years.
In 2022, she became the first woman to appear on the global cover of FIFA 23.
She stands as the only female footballer who has clinched the Golden Boot title in three different leagues on three separate continents. She conquered the W-League (Australia/New Zealand) in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons, led the NWSL (North America) in goals for the 2017, 2018, and 2019 seasons, and seized the highest scorer's title in the FAWSL (Europe) during the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons.
Her breathtaking speed, agility, and scoring prowess have solidified her place among the game's all-time greats. At 29, she still has many years to prove her greatness.