By Josh Staph
Mia Hamm started playing soccer—often alongside her Thai-American, adopted older brother—in Wichita, Texas, when she was five years old. After growing accustomed to competing with her brother and other boys, Mia thought nothing of joining her school’s [American] football team in seventh grade. Many community members at the small Catholic school disapproved of Mia’s decision, but her teammates embraced her and took her seriously—especially after she displayed genuine talent and toughness on the field.
Following her brief stint as a decent football player, Mia chose to focus solely on soccer. With the toughness, strength and agility she had developed under the pads, Mia went on to change the face of women’s soccer. As a Tarheel, Mia earned All American honors and was named ACC Player of the Year, while competing for four National Championships. Post graduation, she led the U.S. Women’s National Team to multiple Olympic medals and the 1999 World Cup title. On May 22, 1999, Mia broke the all-time international goal record with her 108th score in a game against Brazil in Orlando, Fla.