United States women’s national team legend Kristine Lilly was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame on Saturday at a ceremony in San Francisco, joining former U.S. men’s national team striker Brian McBride and former U.S. men’s coach Bob Bradley in this year’s class.
Lilly holds the world record for number of international caps among all players — male or female — with 352 appearances for the United States. She helped guide the U.S. to World Cup titles in the inaugural edition in 1991 and at home in 1999, when Lilly famously cleared Fan Yunjie’s shot off the line in extra time to deny China a golden goal, allowing the game to go to penalty kicks, where Brandi Chastain hit the winning shot. Lilly played in five World Cups, tied for a record.
In an interview with U.S. Soccer, Lilly described that moment as the second-best of her career, behind the United States 2004 Olympic gold medal, when Lilly knew it was the end of the road for teammates and friends Joy Fawcett, Mia Hamm and Julie Foudy and Chastain.
“I remember being so happy that we just won a gold medal, but I also knew that we would never stand there again as teammates,” she said. “It was a very emotional moment for a lot of reasons.”
Former U.S. coach Tony DiCicco, who was in charge for that 1999 triumph, lauded the accomplishments of his former player.
“I’m delighted for her being a first-ballot Hall of Fame awardee, and she clearly deserves it,” DiCicco said. “She was just an amazing player, a player that you don’t see come around every generation. She had tremendous personal drive to be the best. Every day in practice, her commitment and consistency were masterful. She was a role model for her teammates.”
Lilly wore No. 13, which is now worn by Alex Morgan, the new face of the U.S. women’s national team. Morgan played for the U.S. during the final months of Lilly’s career in late 2010. Morgan recalls how the conversation went about passing the torch — and the No. 13.
“I knew Kristine was retiring and I went up to her and asked her if after she was done she could pass down the number – sort of joking, but really not joking – just getting a feel for how she felt about that,” Morgan told ussoccer.com. “And she said, ‘Yeah, of course, I would love to pass that down to you.’ She was so open about it, which made me feel a lot better about things. One of the reasons I wear No. 13 is because she was one of my biggest role models growing up and so it meant so much to allow me to wear that after such a historic career that she had.”
The National Soccer Hall of Fame was previously a museum in Oneonta, N.Y., but closed its doors in 2010. It is still seeking a permanent home, with historic artifacts and memorabilia currently in storage. Inductions now take place surrounding U.S. Soccer’s annual general meetings.
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