Former Florida Gators striker and current U.S. Women’s National Team captain Abby Wambach made history on Thursday by passing Mia Hamm to set a new international goal scoring record for the sport of soccer.
Wambach netted four balls during a friendly against South Korea in Harrison, NJ, increasing her career tally to 160 goals and surpassing fellow American and former teammate Mia Hamm’s career mark of 158 goals.
Entering Thursday’s match with 156 goals, the 33-year-old Wambach tied, eclipsed and then separated herself from Hamm all in the first half of play.
Wambach accepted a pass in the box and turned to strike the ball into the net for the first time at 10’. Just minutes later at 19’, she created space in the box and scored on a quick header to tie Hamm’s record at 158. Wambach surpassed Hamm by registering a hat trick just 29 minutes into the match when she headed in a beautiful corner kick by midfielder Megan Rapinoe. Her final goal of the match came during injury time when she finished a low cross from forward Alex Morgan with a deft slide.
Teammates cheered Wambach after each score but rushed her on the pitch following her record-breaking 159th goal. The Red Bull Arena crowd chanted “Abby! Abby!” and repeated the chants when she left the field early in the second half.
“It’s surreal to begin with. The whole first half was crazy,” Wambach said after the match. “I’m so thankful. And I’ve said it all along: My teammates were trying to get me those goals, it was clear. At halftime, I was like, ‘All right, it’s over with, let’s get back to playing. Be selfish. Take shots yourself.’”
Watching at home, Hamm enthusiastically cheered on Wambach.
“This is fun @AbbyWambach! Get it done and enjoy your moment. We are watching with anticipation,” Hamm tweeted when Wambach tied her with 158 goals. She added after Wambach broke her record: “Congratulations @AbbyWambach. So proud of you, my friend. You are a warrior and true champion. Enjoy this.”
While Wambach was thrilled to perform so well Thursday, she made sure to note that breaking Hamm’s record was never her primary focus.
“It’s never been my goal to break any world record, especially one that my idol, Mia Hamm, had set,” she said. “A personal goal would be to assist on many more Alex Morgan goals so that she, one day, can break my record. Of course, the 2015 World Cup title, I would love nothing more than to bring that home for us.”
The winner of the 2012 FIFA Ballon d’Or for Women’s World Player of the Year, Wambach had her family, friends and Gators head coach Becky Burleigh in attendance to watch her break Hamm’s record.
“There’s nothing better. I usually play much better when my parents are in the stands, my friends and family,” she said. “I’m very thankful they’re here.”
In addition holding the world record for international scoring and being the most recent Ballon d’Or winner, Wambach is a five-time U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year who was named Female Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press in 2011.
She took home the Bronze Boot and Silver Ball following the 2011 Women’s World Cup and was also the recipient of the 2011 ESPY Award for Best Play.
At Florida, Wambach was a two-time SEC Player of the Year who helped lead the Gators to their only national title in 1998. She was inducted into the UF Athletic Hall of Fame in the spring of 2012 and still holds Florida career records for goals (96), assists (50) and total points (242).
Wambach’s 160 goals have come in 207 career international matches; Hamm needed 275 appearances to tally her 158 goals.
Photo Credit: Associated Press