The fifth FIFA Women's World Cup kicks off in China this month and one of the world's most prolific soccer players is about to embark on another World Cup campaign. VOA's Jim Stevenson has more on U.S. women's national team veteran Kristine Lilly.
When asked, the first players many women's soccer fans in the United States are likely to name are Americans Mia Hamm and Kristine Lilly. Hamm retired after the 2003 Women's World Cup. But Lilly is still making an impact on the field as she prepares for her fifth World Cup appearance.
The 36-year-old Lilly is the U.S. team captain. She is the world's all-time appearance leader and is known as the "Iron Woman." In 2000, Lilly became the first player in history - man or woman - to play in 200 career international games. In 2006, she became the first - and perhaps the last player - to reach 300.
Lilly largely credits her physical fitness for her career's longevity. "I think after a certain amount of time you learn what it takes to be a professional. And you learn how to take care of your body. You know what you need to do on and off the field to be ready. And through the years I have learned that. I have taken a lot of pride in my fitness to make sure I am always in shape. And I think that is something that has helped me have a long career. And it is still fun."
Lilly is the second all-time leading scorer in U.S. and world history. She is the all-time leader in time played with almost 27,000 minutes. All of that experience is helping the younger players who are following her. "I try to, in some way, lead through my experience," she says. "I lead by example. But also with my voice. You just want to help them in any way. You do not want to tell them too much because they have to learn some things [on their own]. But you just want to make sure and guide this team right now to come together in September and be the best we can be. That is really my job to make sure we narrow it down a little bit."
Entering 2007, Kristine Lilly has competed in 85 percent of the games the U.S. women have ever played.
She has truly been a global player during her 20-year career, taking the field against 39 countries while scoring against 30 of them. Lilly has played in 21 countries and has scored in 15, including Women's World Cup host China.