The U.S. National Women’s Football Team returns to Minnesota, where it all began 35 years ago


Thirty-five years later, the World Cup and Olympic champion USWNT will play in front of more than 19,000 fans at Allianz Field in St. Paul on Tuesday at 7 pm as they say goodbye to legendary American player Carli Lloyd.

“A very iconic and sentimental thing to end my career here where it all started for this team,” said Lloyd, who is retiring after 134 goals in 315 appearances in 17 years of international football, on Monday. “I tried to represent the ridge the way they started it – these players before me.”

Lloyd’s decorated career spanned half of the women’s national team’s entire life, with her international debut in the Mundialito tournament in Italy in August 1985, the only games prior to her Minnesota roots.

In the early 1980s, a group of volunteers formed the Soccer Association in Minnesota (SAM) to pool resources to organize, support, and promote football within the state. They ranged from the professional level (then with an indoor club known as the Strikers) to the amateur male and female levels and through the youth ranks.

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Together with the Sons of Norway, the USA Cup international youth tournament began at the Blaine Soccer Complex in 1985, which was soon renamed the National Sports Center.

Paul Beggin of Arden Hills was president of SAM, and he thanked fellow volunteer Marge Hartfel for his foresight in seeing the “next move” be the United States Women’s National Team.

A contingent of SAM traveled to the American Football Federation’s national convention in Chicago that year, and Hartfel’s offer to host the women’s team was presented at a competitive meeting. The premise was that the United States Cup was on and had the facilities and support to host matches for the fledgling women’s program as well. The federation quickly voted to add a few games in the northern suburbs of Twin Cities for the summer of 86.

“I don’t think there is anyone who would say this would have happened if Marge wasn’t in that position,” Beggin said.

Head coach Anson Dorrance took over the team in 1986 and had a roster of women in their 20s with college football backgrounds. The roster included future star midfielder Michelle Akers.

That summer, the United States faced Canada – who had also just started their women’s program – in what was called the North American Cup.

The United States defeated Canada 2-0 in Game 1 on July 7. The teams played again on July 9, with Canada coming out in the lead 2-1, and on the same day they had a 30-minute mini-game to break the two-tie game. Behind two goals from the future coach USWNT leader April Heinrichs, the United States claimed a 3-0 victory in this game.

“I remember it got more and more people in the second and third games,” said Beggin, a 74-year-old Arden Hills resident who works at Mahtomedi schools. “It wasn’t like that huge thing, ‘Hey, this is the first game!’ And thousands of people are coming or whatever. It was just an on-site event, and it was impressive because of the way it was organized and the quality of the game was really good.

YouTube added a video from a Northwest Community Television broadcast of the July 9 games in May. Other United States Cup games were visible on the adjacent courts; the only thing separating the games was a rope with red, white and blue flags; cars were parked right next to the end lines; and the mini-game ended just before it had to be canceled due to darkness.

The show ended before the U.S. team, dressed in blue shirts and white shorts, could be captured lifting the silver cup trophy from a card table that has been moved to the field as players and coaches shook hands.

“Both teams deserve credit for putting on such a great show,” said one TV commentator. “I think they showed a lot of quality, and it’s encouraging for American television to have such a quality game. The American game takes it up, and it approaches the European style.

The US team returned to Minnesota in 1987 to face Norway, Canada and Sweden, finishing 2-2 in those games. The United States brought her back to Blaine in 1990, and Dorrance’s squad included future stars like Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy and Kristine Lilly, who became the most appearing American player of all time. . This team beat the Soviet Union, England and West Germany. The crowds were still in the hundreds.

The Americans won the first FIFA Women’s World Cup in 1991 and the first Olympic gold medal in 1996, setting the bar for the world standard. The United States has since won three more World Cups and three more Olympic gold medals.

During that run which included the inspiring 1999 World Cup victory, the United States returned to Blaine in 2001 and played in front of 15,614 fans at the National Sports Center against Canada. In 2002 and 2004, Briana Scurry of Minnesota was the US goalie in front of a crowd of over 8,000 spectators at the NSC. She has performed alongside legends like Brandi Chastain and Abby Wambach.

Lloyd played games at the National Sports Center in 2006, then US Bank Stadium in 2016 and Allianz Field after their last World Cup title in 2019.

Current coach Vlatko Andonovski will coach his first game against the USWNT in Minnesota on Tuesday and said he recently learned of the program’s origins here.

“This is a very interesting moment or detail,” he said. “It’s nice to be back where we started and where it all began. It’s a good opportunity for us to put on a good show and obviously for the State which hosted the very first match and also for Carli.

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