Former USWNT captain and Olympic gold medalist Julie Foudy joined MLS Multiplex for an interview after being selected as a coach for one of Allstate’s All-American teams.
After collecting 274 caps with the United States women’s national team, Julie Foudy retired from professional soccer in 2004. Along with winning the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 1991 and 1999, Foudy also won two Olympic gold medals throughout her 17-year national team career.
The former USWNT captain gave MLS Multiplex a few minutes of her time to talk about her professional soccer journey, the growth of soccer in the United States and the USMNT’s recent hiring of Gregg Berhalter.
Juan Herrera, MLS Multiplex: So to start, could you tell me a bit about the work you’re doing with Allstate?
Julie Foudy: So Allstate for the first time is hosting the inaugural Allstate All-American Cup, which is fabulous because what they’re doing is shining a spotlight on players all over the country. They just announced the first 150 high school soccer players who have been named as Allstate All-Americans, 75 boys and 75 girls. They’re going to select a remaining group of 100 players to get up to a grand total of 250. Eventually, that will be brought down to the top 40 girls and the top 40 boys players.
Brandi [Chastain] and I are the coaches on the girls side, to which the trash talk has already started. I am going to beat her, #BeatBrandi. We also get to spend the summer at MLS All-Star week with them and we get to play before the All-Star game and we honor them there as well. I just love the thought of that because I don’t think we do enough with high school players.
I had such a great high school experience myself. I was on a high school team that had an unbeaten streak that was one of the top in the nation for a long time. That may still be, I’m not sure, but it was when I had my favorite memories of soccer. I love that they’re going around the country and that it truly is nationwide, looking for these players and being able to honor them.
JH: You mention playing high school soccer, I’m curious to hear about how you got your start in the game. Where did it all begin for you?
Julie Foudy: I started playing when I was seven here in southern California. Then I played for the mighty Mission Viejo Soccerettes, which was my club team. Afterwards I played for Mission Viejo High School where we had this great program. We also won three CIF titles.
The thing about it too, that you don’t get at the club level, which is why I feel high school soccer is so important and it’s something that I know Allstate values a ton, is that you’re part of a community. You’re playing in front of your peers and in front of your city.
I was at our local high school soccer game when they were in the state finals last season and there was a thousand people in the stands. They were chanting for them and it’s just a very different experience than what you see in the club level. One that I think is super positive and players should experience. It saddens me that they’re forced to make that decision sometimes nowadays.
JH: Looking back did you think you would end up playing professional soccer for a living?
Julie Foudy: No, you know back in those days we didn’t really know what the national team was. It was still in its infancy. There was no women’s pro league. There was no women’s soccer, World Cup wise or in the Olympics. I just loved playing. I was just enjoying the heck out of it. I was thinking more along the lines of how much fun it was to be hanging with my friends. To actually be able to do it and make a living doing it and it become my job for almost two decades was definitely a blessing.
JH: When you and your teammates won that first women’s World Cup in 91, did you all consider the significance of that achievement in terms of what it would mean for the women’s program?
Julie Foudy: Well we thought that it was something that would change the soccer landscape in the United States and then we quickly realized that no one even knew we’d been to China and won the World Cup. So we still consider it the best-kept secret. It gave us the motivation to continue to promote the sport and push the sport forward.
Then we got to host the 99 World Cup and that changed a lot of things. I think our vision from the very beginning, even as feisty and young teenagers was “how can we grow this game and bring it the attention it deserves in the United States?” That was what I loved the most about that group.
It was of course always about winning and we were wanting to be at the top of every podium, but there was always this picture and this bigger perspective of “how can I inspire these young girls who have this dream to play one day at this level?” Now they finally get to see it and we were never able to see it growing up because there wasn’t such a thing out there.
JH: What do you consider to be the biggest accomplishment or achievement of your playing career?
Julie Foudy: You know for one there’s great and then there’s consistently great. It’s very hard to be consistently great and I think that’s one of the things we took pride in with that team. Over the course of 18 years, to be consistently great with every medal round of any major competition, we wanted to win every single one. To play at that level for so long with that group, I think was one of the things I take great pride in. To do it and not only be successful on the field, but to leave the game in a better place, which was such a huge things for us in terms of inspiring young girls to play and young boys to see it at that level, is something that we all took great pride in.
JH: Changing topics here, I’m curious to hear your thoughts on the U.S. Soccer Federation’s hiring of Gregg Berhalter. Also, what are your thought on the current state of the U.S. national team?
Julie Foudy: Well I think first with Gregg, I think it’s a good hire. Everyone you talk to says he’s an excellent coach. He knows his tactics and his x’s and o’s. He’s tough, but fair with players and he manages players well. It’s all those things you’d want him to be right? He’s played and coached at both the international level, so he has that perspective as well. He’s played at two world cups for the men and so it’s the first time a U.S. world cup veteran is actually leading the team and those are all positives.
I think he was saddled a bit with the process and a lack of transparency with the process and that it took longer than people had hoped, but there is this angst in this country and clearly some visceral emotions around the men’s program when they didn’t qualify for the World Cup, which I also think that’s a good thing because it shows that people care. They’re invested in this game and it matters.
I mean, there was a day in this country where people would have yawned at that. Now there is an outpouring of emotions on social media and elsewhere. They want to see where this program is going and how it’s being developed. They want to know what’s happening and they’re impatient. So he’s gonna have to fight through a lot of that and bring some stability back to the program and some confidence, but I think he’s up for the challenge.
JH: You mention how there’s been a growing interest in the game here in the U.S., how much has that changed since you were playing? What kind of growth have you seen across the game here?
Julie Foudy: It’s been huge. I think in large part, I credit the American Outlaws because they didn’t exist in my time and what they’ve done is they’ve built a community. So even if you’re a casual soccer fan that doesn’t follow us that much, all of a sudden you’re around all these people that are incredibly passionate about it. It’s fun, young and you can go to a bar or an event and be with all these people who can increase your level of curiosity and want you to engage.
I mean, look at Atlanta United and the success they’ve had there and the numbers they’re getting there. The enthusiasm in that city and with the MLS Cup around the corner, I think those are wonderful signs for the future of the sport in this country.
I know we’ve said for a very long time that we’re at this tipping point, but you really do feel it. I think that’s what was so bone-crushing about the men not qualifying is when you have a player like Christian Pulisic and he’s not going to be able to go to a world cup and you know the talent he has. You want to see that. So I think it’s all very encouraging in terms of support and the interest level.