Women have been playing soccer in its modern form since the 1800s, but it took a long time to grow to the point it is at today. The first ever UEFA Women’s Championship was held in 1982, and in the 1990s, the first Women’s World Cup and Olympic Women’s Soccer tournament were held. The sport has since then continued to rise in popularity.
With most of the progress in women’s soccer coming in the last twenty to twenty-five years, this list mainly focuses on modern era female soccer players. The diverse background of the players on this list just goes to show how popular the sport has become on an international level. Some of the women on this list are still playing and so have the opportunity of further rising up on this list. Regardless of current playing status or nationality, these 10 women are the pinnacle of athletic ability in women’s soccer and deserve all the recognition and celebration they can get.
You can also read our list of Top 10 Greatest Male Soccer Players
Greatest Female Soccer Players in History
Although she has been retired since 2004, Mia Hamm continues to be the face of the sport for casual fans. Twice the FIFA World Player of the Year, she was part of the United States team that won the Women’s World Cup in 1991 and 1999 and the Olympic gold medal in 1996 and 2004. She is the second all-time leading scorer with 158 international goals and was one of just two women to be included in the FIFA 100 list.
Despite all of her World Cups and Olympic gold medals, Hamm is perhaps more than anything else, looked upon as a pioneering figure in not just women’s soccer, but in women’s sport in the United States. One of the most celebrated and successful female soccer players and an icon for women’s soccer, she is an obvious inclusion in any list that talks about the greatest female soccer players of all time.
Marta is one of the most talented female soccer players in history, being named the FIFA World Player of the Year for five years straight beginning in 2006. She also helped Brazil finish runner-up in the 2007 Women’s World Cup, winning the Golden Ball and Golden Boot for the best player and top scorer in the tournament. She is currently tied for the all-time leading goalscorer with Brigit Prinz with 14 Women’s World Cup goals.
Christine Sinclair currently is the third all-time lead scorer with 148 international goals and may have the time to surpass both Hamm and Wambach before she retires. The Canadian captain and record goalscorer, Sinclair led her national team to the CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup title in 2010 and an Olympic bronze in 2012, scoring a legendary hat-trick in a losing semi-finals effort against the United States. She is also an eleven-time winner of the Canada Soccer Player of the Year award and has been a nominee for the FIFA World Player of the Year award six times.
Michelle Akers is a former leader of the United States national team. She won a Golden Boot in the 1991 Women’s World Cup for being the top scorer and in the same year, scored a mind-boggling 39 goals in just 26 international games. This is even more impressive due to the fact that Akers was a midfielder, instead of a forward. Akers received the FIFA Medal of Merit (FIFA’s highest possible honor) in 1998, was named the FIFA Female Player of the Century in 2002, and was amongst the only two women to be named in the FIFA 100 list in 2004.
Homare Sawa is one of the greatest female play making midfielders. She captained Japan to an Olympic silver medal in 2012 and the 2011 Women’s World Cup title, winning the Golden Ball and Golden Boot for the MVP and leading scorer in the 2011 World Cup. Her legacy is further cemented by winning the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year award.
A three-time FIFA World Player of the Year, Birgit Prinz is the most capped non-American soccer player. She led Germany to the World Cup title in 2003 and 2007 and has won three Olympic bronze medals in 2000, 2004 and 2008. She is also tied for FIFA Women’s World Cup’s all-time leading scorer with 14 goals. At club level, she has won eight Bundesliga titles and three UEFA Women’s Cups. Although she retired in 2011, her legacy as one of the all-time best is well-established.
No footballer – male or female – has scored more international goals than Abby Wambach at 167. What’s more impressive here is that most of Wambach’s goals are scored on the very biggest stages. She has played in three World Cups (finishing second once and third twice) as well as three Olympics (winning the gold medal all three times). She is also the first soccer player to win the AP Athlete of the Year award in 2013 and the first American woman to win the 2012 FIFA World Player of the Year award.
Sun Wen’s greatest accomplishment came in the 1999 Women’s World Cup when she led China to a second place finish and won the Golden Boot and Golden Ball for the leading scorer and MVP of the tournament. She also helped her national team win an Olympic silver in 1996 and scored 106 times for China in 152 matches. In 2002, Wen was one of the two recipients of the FIFA Female Player of the Century award along with Michelle Akers.
No other player – male or female – has got anywhere near Kristine Lilly’s 352 caps, earned in a career that began in 1987 and ended just seven years ago. The attacker competed in five World Cups (winning two and finishing third in the rest) and is a three-time Olympian (winning two gold medals). At club level, she represented Boston Breakers for four seasons and is now an assistant coach for the team.
Nadine Angerer won the FIFA Women’s Player of the Year award, becoming the first ever goalkeeper – male or female – to win the award. She has also set the record for most consecutive minutes without allowing a goal at 540 and went the entire 2007 World Cup without conceding a single goal. She was also the starter for Germany’s women’s soccer team that won the UEFA Women’s Championship in 2009 and 2013, and a bronze medal in the 2008 Olympics.
So these are the top 10 greatest female soccer players of all time. If you like our content, please share and subscribe. And don’t forget to leave a comment down below.