That it beat Landon Donovan’s dramatic 2010 winner in Pretoria will surprise some, but there’s little doubting the merit of Abby Wambach’s 2011 Women’s World Cup goal against Brazil – the 122nd minute equalizer that helped the Women’s National Team capture the country’s imagination that summer. Today, that moment was commemorated as the best moment in U.S. Soccer history, the result of the federation’s bracket-style competition celebrating its 100th anniversary.
Wambach and Donovan’s goals were the last of 64 moments paired down throughout the course of a tournament that featured over 210,000 votes cast by more than 10,000 fans, with the final award part of the honors the federation is using to celebrate its centennial. On Thursday, the USSF will announce its all-time women’s XI, with the men’s team set to be announced on Friday.
Though Donovan’s strike against Algeria to win Group C for the U.S. three years ago has earned its rightful place in U.S. soccer lore, the choice of Wambach’s goal reflects the broad appeal of the Women’s National Team, a quality that transcends the typical core of soccer fans in the United States. Although Men’s World Cups afford the Men’s National Team similar opportunities, the stardom of players like Wambach, Alex Morgan and Hope Solo highlights the Women’s Team’s ability to broader demographics.
When events like the 2011 World Cup or 2012 Summer Olympics get coverage in places the men’s team can’t penetrate, we’re reminded there’s a segment of soccer interest beyond hardcore fans that the sport has yet to truly access. At its heights, the Women’s National Team engages that fan.
Donovan’s goal is often evoked among the hardcore sect as the U.S.’s transcendent moment, and for those who list soccer as their favorite sport, perhaps it is. But between those soccer hardcores who disagree and the broader audience, Wambach’s goal may have had the bigger impact.
While the U.S. Soccer honors may have a touch of ballot box stuffing to them, there’s a reason those ballots were stuffed in Wambach’s favor. For so many who continue to be inspired by that score, her goal against Brazil eclipsed Donovan’s. It was their best U.S. Soccer moment of all-time.