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The Lowdown: Remembering the WUSA, 20 years later

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Twenty years ago Wednesday – April 14, 2001 – where were you?

“The thing I remember most about the day,” Ann Cook – now a coach at Penn State – said, “was being so excited for the day. Obviously we had been training for it for some time and It was something we had all in some way dreamt of. And I remember being so nervous in the hotel and kind of pacing the hallways and talking to teammates. We were sort of settling in and getting our thoughts together for the game.

“I was flipping through the channels in and room and the channel that the game was going to be on was playing A League of Their Own, with a little swirling soccer ball in the corner saying: ‘Coming Up Next: A League of Their Own.’”

A League of Their Own the movie was a popular 1992 dramatization of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League which was launched during World War II. The swirling soccer ball was an advertisement for the game Cook was about to play in. It was the opening game of the Women’s United Soccer Association. The match was between Cook’s Bay Area CyberRays, and hosts Washington Freedom.

“I kept blinking my eyes and wondering why the league was spending so much money in marketing and resources and selling this game,” Jim Gabarra, who coached the Washington Freedom that day, said. “And then once the day came around it was like the perfect day. Weather was perfect. Crowd was perfect. The atmosphere was perfect.

“It was marketed and resourced as an event very similar to a World Cup opener. Credit to the league—whether it was the right thing to do or not, it was massively successful. It was an event and I think that’s why it was so well attended and kind of the benchmark that may never be seen again.”

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