If the tale of American women's soccer begins with a sports-bra victory slide and a 1999 US World Cup Title, then the story's latest chapter lies at the blazing feet of goal scoring machine Alex Morgan.
On the field Alex is graceful and gritty, smooth and strong, darting around defenders to the net one minute and overpowering them the next. A blur on the pitch, she overwhelms with her attacking style, bringing defenses to their knees and fans to their feet. And having scored late goals in World Cup and Olympic matches, she is a pressure performer, thriving when the stage is grandest and all eyes are on the sport she owns.
An Olympic, WPS and NWSL champion, a US Soccer Female Athlete of the Year and a member of the USWNT's All-Time Best XI squad, she is a proven winner at an age when few can say the same.
Glamorous sportswoman, social media phenom, marketing icon-she is all this and more, proof that the female athlete's ability to inspire and excite stretches far beyond the field.
She is Alex Morgan. And 15 years after her sport first washed up on American shores, she is the new face of US Women's Soccer.
Like many girls raised on Southern California soccer fields in the post-99 World Cup boom, Alex dreamed of stardom. In an age where Brandi Chastain's penalty winner and Mia Hamm commercials flooded TVs, where efforts to cater to girls as athletes gripped the country, it was hard not to. America had caught soccer fever.
Against this backdrop, however, Alex's first steps to soccer glory were modest.
While her peers bypassed other sports for soccer and local leagues for traveling clubs as early as age 10, Alex juggled basketball, volleyball, track, and soccer well into her teenage years. It was not until she was 14 that she joined a club team and by then she was late to the game-an unknown on the competitive soccer scene.
Yet if her first steps up the mountain were quiet strides, Alex's next moves were boundless leaps.
Armed with breathtaking speed and a nose for the back of the net, she dominated her club peers, continuing her ascent at Diamond Bar High School, where she finished as a three-time all-league pick and an All-American. In the blink of an eye, the unknown had taken the soccer world by storm.
A YOUNG STAR
People soon began to take notice of what had come to be Alex’s quick rise up the sport’s youth ranks. In 2007 at age 17, just three years after she had joined her first club team and not too long after she had decided to focus solely on soccer, she was called up to train with the United States under-20 women's national team.
Soon thereafter, she accepted a soccer scholarship and began her college career at the University of California, Berkeley. As a Golden Bear, Alex solidified her status as one of the premiere young talents in the game. She finished her career as Cal’s single season-season leading scorer, a four-time all-Pac 10 performer, and a 2010 All-American.
On the back of both her accolades and her stellar play, she was selected with the first overall pick of the 2011 WPS Draft by the Western New York Flash just months after her graduation.
A childhood dream, it seemed, was complete. Few, if any, then, could guess what still lay in store.
By the time Alex, just 21, laced up her cleats as the 2011 US World Cup team's youngest member, she was no secret in soccer circles, having scored key goals in the 2008 U20 World Cup and in WC qualifying. Yet to those roused to fandom only when the stakes are highest, she was an unknown.
How soon that would change.
She scored her first WC goal in a semifinal win over France and tallied an assist and a goal in the Final against Japan. She was the first to record that feat in a WCF, but the US fell short.
Her play, though, captivated the masses; as the US readied for revenge at the 2012 Olympics, she had become a face of the quest for redemption.
That quest was in doubt as the Olympic Semifinal ticked away, the US in a 3-3 tie with Canada.
Stars are remembered by the magnitude of their moments, thus when Alex scored the latest winning goal in US history, a 123rd minute header that sent millions into mayhem, she secured a seat in the pantheon of American sports icons.
Days hence she assisted on a goal against Japan en route to a Gold Medal, later finishing 2012 as the US Soccer Female Athlete of the Year.
Interspersed among her national team triumphs, Alex has also enjoyed great success in the professional ranks.
On January 14, 2011, she was drafted with the #1 overall pick in the WPS Draft by the Western New York Flash and instantly took the league by storm. She scored her 1st professional goal in her 1st game with the Flash, and playing alongside legendary strikers Marta and Christine Sinclair, guided the way to a 2011 WPS Championship Title.
After spending 2012 playing with the Seattle Sounders Women, Alex joined the Portland Thorns FC for the inaugural 2013 season of the National Women’s Soccer League. She scored her first goal for the Thorns during the team's home-opener and finished the regular season as the team's points leader. And adding to her winning ways, Alex led the club to the inaugural National Women’s Soccer League Championship Title, her 2nd professional championship in three years.
Off the field, Alex is one of sports’ most recognizable faces. A media fixture, she has graced the pages of publications ranging from Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue to ESPN the Magazine’s Music Issue, while also having appeared in ESPN’s 2013 documentary series Nine for IX.
Moreover, Alex has developed into a marketing icon, the latest in the rare line of female athlete turned mainstream star—a transformation evidenced by her partnerships with the likes of Nike, McDonald’s, and Coca-Cola.
Yet if you ask Alex, her most meaningful contribution away from the pitch has come by way of her work as a best-selling author. She released the first installment of her three-novel series for young girls, Saving the Team, which debuted seventh on the The New York Times Middle Grade Bestseller List, in May 2013 and penned her second book Sabotage Season, later that year.
Written to celebrate her love of the game and her meteoric rise up the sport’s mountain, Alex hopes her novels inspire young girls everywhere, hopes that one day they might propel the next unknown to the top of the soccer world.