Michelle Akers was the most dominant player on the United States Women’s National Team from 1985 until she retired in 2000. In 1999, she was named the FIFA Women’s Player of the Century, as the top female soccer player in the world.
In 2001, Michelle and her teammates from the 1991 Women’s World Championship were awarded the Medal of Honor from the National Soccer Hall of Fame.
US Women’s Soccer Player
Akers had a celebrated international career with the United States Women’s National Team. She scored 105 goals in 153 appearances, which ranks her second all-time in goals scored in Women’s National Team history. In 1985, the FIFA female player of the century scored the first goal in the team’s history against Denmark in a 2-2 draw in Jesolo, Italy.
Michelle Akers first gained worldwide attention at the FIFA World Championships for Women’s Football (later renamed FIFA Women’s World Cup in 1999) in 1991.
In the World Championship, she scored an astounding ten goals in six matches, including both goals in the Final, a 2-1 win over Norway. Both goals came from passes from Shannon Higgins. Michelle scored five of her ten goals against Taiwan in the quarterfinals.
The forward was one of the blades on the ‘Triple-Edged Sword’ in the United States attack. The other two are April Heinrichs and Carin Gabarra-Jennings.
These three Hall of Famers scored an impressive 20 out of the 25 goals the United States scored at the 1991 FIFA Women’s World Championship.
Michelle Akers was the unquestioned U.S. Women’s National Team leader at the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup. She spearheaded the United States to their second World title in three tries.
This time, Akers was playing more of a defensive-minded role where she anchored the midfield. The future FIFA female player of the century scored a vital penalty in the 2-0 win over Brazil in the semifinals.
During the final, Michelle had to be substituted after the second half due to exhaustion. She was being re-hydrated intravenously as her teammates completed their penalty shootout victory over China.
A dazed Akers joined her teammates for the medal ceremony and subsequent celebration.
Michelle retired from professional soccer following this match, though she was a ‘Founding Player of the Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA). She never played a competitive game in the league and appeared in one exhibition in 2002.
At the collegiate level, Michelle was a four-time NSCAA All-American at the University of Central Florida. In 1988, she became the first woman to win the Hermann Trophy.
After Michelle Akers graduated from Central Florida, she went to Sweden to play professional soccer, where she played three seasons for Tyresco Club – the first American woman to play professional soccer.
Perhaps the greatest disappointment of her national team career was the bronze medal finish in the 1995 FIFA World Championship for Women when she was injured in the first game against China and did not appear until the semifinal loss to Norway, lacking her typical match fitness and sharpness.
The triumph of this tournament was the strong will she and the team brought to the 1996 Olympic games in the United States.
Moreover, the team’s gold medal performance in the first women’s soccer competition in the Olympics signaled the beginning of a broader appeal for women’s soccer and its participants, further heightened by the overwhelming reception the 1999 Women’s World Cup received in the United States.
Michelle Akers Books
Michelle Anne Akers has written several books, including The Game and the Glory and Standing Fast, which chronicles her battle with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and her overcoming incredible obstacles to win a gold medal.
She frequently speaks to children and adults in association with organizations like the Billy Graham Evangelical Association and other Christian agencies and performs clinics for soccer groups and teams worldwide.
The striker has her own website and was the first female American soccer player to sign a shoe endorsement deal in 1991.
Michelle Akers Named FIFA Player of the Century
Former U.S. Women’s National Team star Michelle Akers, whose awards and triumphs are the stuff of legend, added perhaps the most prestigious honor to her crowded trophy case last night when she was named the Women’s Player of the Century by FIFA, the world’s governing body of soccer.
The ceremony occurred in Rome, where the great Pele and Argentinean hero Diego Maradona were named Men’s co-Players of the Century.
The first women’s soccer player to gain global fame and sign a shoe-endorsement contract, Akers was an athlete ahead of her time when she dominated the 1991 Women’s World Cup, scoring ten goals, including two in the Women’s World Cup Final, to help the USA to victory.
Michelle Akers retired from international soccer just before the 2000 Olympics after a historic 15-year career. She played in the first-ever U.S. Women’s National Team match on Aug. 18, 1985, against Italy and finished her career with 105 goals in 153 games.
One of the true pioneers of her sport, during her time with the national team, women’s soccer grew from its humble beginnings into one of the most popular sports for girls and women in the U.S.
With her work on and off the soccer field, she helped pull women’s soccer into the mainstream and became a role model for hundreds of thousands of young girls across the country.
Her warm personality, unique sense of humor, and ability to talk to people from all walks of life further endeared her to fans wherever she traveled.
The US National Soccer Hall of Famer played in five world championships with the USA, winning two Women’s World Cups and one Olympic gold medal. In 1998, just before the World Cup in France, she received FIFA’s highest honor, the FIFA Order of Merit, for her positive contributions to the game.
Michelle Akers Stats
Full Name: Michelle Anne Akers
Birthplace: Santa Clara, California
College Soccer Career:
- UCF Knights 1985–1988
- Tyreso FF 1990
- Tyreso FF 1992
- Orlando Lions Women 1992
- Tyreso FF 1994
International Soccer Career:
- United States Women’s National Team 1985–2000
Total Appearances: 155 matches (107 goals)