KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It’s been more than 23 years since Briana Scurry’s diving save on China’s third penalty kick try in the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final set the stage for arguably the most-iconic moment in U.S. women’s sports history.
The save has become a footnote to Brandi Chastain’s celebration when she ripped off her jersey and swung it around her head after delivering a 5-4 shootout win for the U.S. Women’s National Team, a moment immortalized in bronze outside the Rose Bowl.
But Scurry’s place as a women’s sports icon remains secure as an Olympic gold medalist, World Cup champion and 2017 National Soccer Hall of Fame inductee among other honors. It’s not uncommon for people to recognize her out and about in public.
“Quite a bit, surprisingly, because I’ve lived in a few different places — especially at my gym, I get recognized quite a bit there,” Scurry said of how often she’s recognized in the community.
Scurry has lived in Alexandria, Virginia, for nearly a decade and remains pleasantly surprised at the impact of the World Cup win nearly a quarter-century ago.
“I did have an idea about what we were doing,” Scurry said. “I mean, the stadiums were full. We were a standalone sport, not the Olympic game with all the other sports, so I had an idea. But I didn’t know the emotional impact of the World Cup on people. I still have people, to this day, who want to tell me where they were when we won.”
It’s a version of the day President Kennedy was shot, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded or when planes hit the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001 — except the World Cup victory is a thrilling, not traumatic, memory for most.
“It’s always intriguing for me,” Scurry said. “I can see in their eyes, they get emotional and they tear up. They really feel like they were a part of that. That’s the really cool part. They feel like it belonged to them too, and it did.”
Scurry — who also has become an advocate for concussion awareness, including her new book, “My Greatest Save” — will be in Kansas City this week as a new generation of the U.S. Women’s National Team’s preps for a friendly against Nigeria at noon on Saturday at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas.
She’s impressed with the budding women’s soccer culture in America’s Heartland.
The Kansas City Current, which are playing this season and next at Sporting Kansas City’s home venue, plan to break ground on the nation’s first purpose-built stadium for a professional women’s soccer team this fall.
It’s a far cry from Scurry’s days in the defunct WUSA or WPS leagues.
She sees the celebrity investment in NWSL teams — tennis legend Serena Williams is part of a star-studded Angel City FC ownership group, fellow tennis star Naomi Osaka invested in the North Carolina Courage, four-time WNBA champion Sue Bird joined the NJ/NY Gotham FC ownership group and Brittany Mahomes is co-founder of the Current — as a strong indicator of the league’s future, especially coupled with Kansas City’s stadium endeavor.
“That’s new in the last couple of years with all these other athletes investing in women’s soccer, and I think it’s a real watershed moment,” Scurry said. “Kansas City is definitely leading the way in that. Making the training facility — $18 million is nothing to sneeze at — and building that stadium for the 2024 season, it’s a real investment. It’s a real investment in the entirety of the game, trying to grow it and looking very much like a potential flagship club, not only in this country but in the world.
“I think that — that vision of women’s soccer, about being a flagship team in the world is new also. That’s not something that we talked about much when we were in the WUSA or WPS, but the NWSL is poised to do some amazing things that no other league has done before.”
Coupled with a resolution to a decades-long fight for equal pay for women’s players from the U.S. Soccer Federation, Scurry sees the sport primed for takeoff across the country.
“These players are so crafty, so fast, so powerful, so strong and just the speed of the game is neck-breaking really,” she said. “... It’s a great time to be involved in the game and I’m just so proud of everything that we’ve all done.”