The U.S. Women’s National Team is by far the most successful country in Olympic women’s soccer history, having won four gold medals and one silver medal in the five competitions that have held so far. The USA is 23-2-3 all-time in the Olympics, having lost only in the gold medal game in 2000 and the opening match of the 2008 tournament, both to Norway.
In 2016 in Brazil, the USA will celebrate the 20th anniversary of its first gold medal which came in the first Olympic Games in which women’s soccer was contested. The Olympic Women’s Soccer Tournament was staged as an eight-team competition in 1996 and 2000 before moving to a 10-team tournament in 2004 – and then a 12 team-tournament for the past two Olympic Games.
1996: 4-0-1 – Leading scorers: Tisha Venturini, Shannon MacMillan, Tiffeny Milbrett – 2 goals each
The USA claimed that inaugural gold medal at the Atlanta Games in 1996 with a 2-1 victory against China on goals from former college teammates Shannon MacMillan and Tiffeny Milbrett in front of 76,481 fans in Athens, Ga. The attendance mark, which at the time was the largest crowd to ever watch a women’s athletic event, set the stage for the incredibly successful Women’s World Cup staged in the U.S. in 1999. The gold medal victory culminated an impressive five-game undefeated run through the tournament in which the U.S. Women played in front of packed crowds.
2000: 3-1-1 -- Leading scorers: Tiffeny Milbrett – 3 goals; Mia Hamm – 2 goals
As they did in 1996, the U.S. Women had a strong run to the medal stand in 2000, winning the “Group of Death” that included China, Nigeria and Norway. In the gold medal match in Sydney, Australia, the USA put together an excellent performance as Milbrett scored both goals, including a last gasp equalizer in the second minute of second half stoppage time, but a spirited Norway side produced a controversial “golden goal” in overtime to win the gold. Norway scored its three goals on just three shots on goal in the thrilling 3-2 triumph.
2004: 5-0-1 – Leading scorers: Abby Wambach – 4 goals; Kristine Lilly – 3 goals; Mia Hamm – 2 goals
The 2004 Athens Games were a fitting end for a number of U.S. veterans, including Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy and Joy Fawcett, who left the sport as they came into it: as champions. The never-say-die team won both its semifinal and final matches in overtime, courtesy of a Heather O’Reilly strike against Germany and an Abby Wambach header against Brazil to claim the gold.
2008: 5-1-0 – Angela Hucles – 4 goals; Carli Lloyd, Heather O’Reilly – 2 goals each
Four years later, the U.S. came into the Olympics without Wambach, the team’s top scorer who broke her leg in the final preparation match. With Pia Sundhage leading the team into her first world championship as head coach, a new class of players including Hope Solo, Carli Lloyd and surprise leading scorer Angela Hucles led the team to gold with a 1-0 victory over Brazil. Lloyd scored the dramatic overtime game-winner in the 96th minute.
2012: 6-0-0 – Abby Wambach – 5 goals; Carli Lloyd – 4 goals; Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe – 3 goals each
In 2012, the U.S. Women went undefeated at 6-0-0 for the first time at an Olympic tournament and Sundhage ended her time with the USA as a two-time Olympic champion. The USA’s run included a thrilling come-from-behind semifinal victory against Canada, with Alex Morgan scoring the game-winner in the 123rd minute in what was the latest goal scored in a FIFA competition. In the gold medal match, Lloyd scored both goals in the 2-1 victory against Japan and the USA became the first country – in either men’s or women’s soccer – to earn a fourth gold while avenging its defeat in the Women’s World Cup Final a year earlier. The match was watched by more than 80,000 fans at the famed Wembley Stadium in London.