According to the latest reports released by FIFA, around twenty-nine million girls and women play soccer. When it comes to professional soccer players, the goal is to facilitate around sixty million females by the end of 2026.
Needless to say, the soccer industry is dominated by males as over 89% of professional soccer players are men. At the same time, women’s soccer is becoming more popular, especially in Europe.
In fact, the popularity of women’s soccer is growing across the globe.
According to a report released by UEFA, the number of registered professional female soccer players went from 1.27 million to 1.36 million in twelve months, from 2016 to 2017.
Countries with the most professional female soccer players are Germany, Sweden, Norway, Netherlands, France, and England.
The number of professional female soccer teams went from 1,680 to 3,572 in four years, between 2013 and 2017.
Here, we focus on the best female soccer players of all time who had competed at the biggest professional soccer tournaments and competitions.
Our list of the best women soccer players includes Mia Hamm, Marta Vieira da Silva, Birgit Prinz, Abby Wambach, Sun Wen, Homare Sawa, Christine Sinclair, Renate Lingor, Kelly Smith, and Michelle Akers. We start with amazing Mia Hamm who continues to inspire new generations of female soccer players.
1. Mia Hamm
Image courtesy of Encyclopedia Britannica
When discussing the best women soccer players of all time, we have to mention the amazing Mia Hamm.
Mariel Margaret Hamm-Garciaparra was born in March 1972 in the small Alabamian city of Selma. She was born to Stephanie and Bill Hamm.
She grew up in a loving household alongside her five siblings. Since her father worked for the US Air Force, she spent the vast majority of her early childhood years living in different Air Force bases in the USA.
Her family also lived in Italy for several months and this is where she was introduced to soccer for the first time.
When she was only five years old, Mia joined her very first soccer team. It was not long before everyone noticed Mia’s tremendous talent.
During her junior high school years, she played for the school’s boys’ team. During her high school years, she competed for the Notre Dame High School soccer team.
Her career kicked off in 1987 when she competed at the United States Olympic Festival. At the time, Mia was the youngest player to compete with the US women’s national soccer team.
One of the best female soccer players, amazing Mia Hamm competed for the North Carolina Tar Heels team from 1989 until 1993.
In ninety-five appearances, she scored one hundred and three goals. She played for the Washington Freedom team from 2001 until 2003.
In forty-nine appearances, she scored twenty-five goals. For the US women’s national soccer team, she scored one hundred and fifty-eight goals in two hundred and seventy-six appearances. Mia Hamm also competed in four major Women’s World Cup tournaments held by FIFA.
2. Marta Vieira da Silva
Marta Vieira da Silva is one of the most successful and talented female soccer players from Brazil. Alongside Mia Hamm and other female soccer players who appear on this list, Marta is regarded as one of the best women soccer players of all time.
Marta was born in February of 1986 in Alagoas, Brazil. She enjoyed playing soccer with kids in her neighborhood from a very young age.
However, her amazing talent remained hidden until she was fourteen years old. According to her interviews, Helena Pacheco is responsible for discovering Marta’s talent.
At the time, Helena Pacheco worked as a professional female soccer coach. Marta’s professional career kicked off in 2000 after joining the CR Vasco de Gama team.
Before joining the team, Marat competed for the CSA soccer youth club. In 2002, Marta moved to Minas Gerais to play for the Santa Cruz soccer team where she remained for two whole seasons.
From 2004 until 2008, she lived in Sweden and competed for the Umeå IK team. In one hundred and three appearances, she scored one hundred and eleven goals which is more than impressive.
After leaving Umeå IK, Marta joined the Los Angeles Sol team. In nineteen appearances, she scored ten goals. For one whole season, she played for the Santos team on loan before joining the Gold Pride team in 2010.
In 2011, she played for the Santos and Western New York Flash teams, while in 2012, she joined the Tyresö team based in Sweden. Currently, the thirty-six-year-old Marta competed for the Orlando Pride team. She is also a member of the Brazilian women’s national soccer team.
3. Birgit Prinz
Image courtesy of fussballmuseum.de
When discussing the best female soccer players, we have to mention the legendary Birgit Prinz. Birgit Prinz is a former German soccer player whose amazing career started in 1986 when she joined the V Dornigheim FC.
Birgit Prinz was born in October of 1977 in Frankfurt which at the time was part of West Germany. Alongside other female soccer players who appear on our list of the best women soccer players, she is regarded as one of the most successful and most talented in the industry.
Not much is known about her early childhood years, but we know she was interested in soccer and swimming from a very young age.
After finishing high school, she enrolled at the Goethe University Frankfurt where she earned her psychology degree.
When it comes to her career as a professional soccer player, she started at the SV Dörnigheim FC team. She played for the team between 1986 and 1988 when she transferred to FC Hochstadt.
Her senior career kicked off in 1993 when she joined the FSV Frankfurt team. In fifty-seven appearances, she scored forty-five goals.
She played for the team until 1998 when she transferred to 1. FFC Frankfurt. In seventy-six appearances, she scored seventy-eight goals.
For one season, she played for the Carolina Courage team before returning to 1. FFC Frankfurt in 2003. She remained on the team until 2011.
In one hundred and fourteen appearances, she scored one hundred and thirty-six goals. Birgit Prinz is a two-time FIFA World Cup champion, so there is no wonder she remains one of the best women soccer players of all time years after retiring.
4. Abby Wambach
Abby Wambach also deserves a spot on our list of the most successful female soccer players. Abby’s amazing career started when she joined her high school’s soccer team in 1994.
Mary Abigail Wambach was born in June of 1980 in Rochester, the state of New York, United States. She grew up with six siblings, four older brothers and two sisters.
She knew nothing about soccer until her older sister decided to join a soccer team in their neighborhood. At the time, Abby was only four years old.
Shortly after her sister started playing the sport, soccer became deeply ingrained in her family’s tradition.
When Abby was only five years old, she played her very first match for the girls’ team at the youth soccer league. However, it was not long after she transferred to the boys’ team. In just three matches, young Abby scored twenty-seven goals.
During four years of high school, she competed for both basketball and soccer teams. For the soccer team, she scored one hundred and forty-two goals, from 1994 until 1998 when she left for college.
In 1998, she joined the Florida Gators team where she stayed for three seasons, until 2001.
Her senior career kicked off in 2002 when she joined the Washington Freedom team. She stayed there until 2003 and in thirty-seven appearances, she scored twenty-three goals.
Abby also competed for the Ajax America Women team in 2005. In three appearances, she scored five goals. From 2009 until 2010, she competed for the Washington Freedom team.
In thirty-nine appearances, she scored twenty-one goals. Before retiring from the sport in 2015, Abby competed for the MagicJack and Western New York Flash teams.
5. Sun Wen
Image courtesy of China Daily
Known for her amazing speed, Sun Wen is also regarded as one of the most skilled and talented female soccer players of all time.
During her extremely fruitful career, Sun Wen was a captain of the China national soccer team. Sun Wen was born in April of 1973 in Shanghai, China.
Unfortunately, not much is known about her childhood, but we know that her father was also a football player. In one of her interviews, she said that her father is responsible for her success.
We also know that she started playing football when she was only ten years old. Her first coach was her father.
Aside from being focused on her sports career, Sun Wen was always interested in literature. She earned her degree in literature at the University of Shanghai. When it comes to her early days in the soccer industry, she joined her first senior soccer team in 1989.
She competed for Shanghai between 1989 and 2000. In six hundred and fifty-nine appearances, she scored one hundred and sixty-nine goals.
In 2001, she transferred to the Atlanta Beat team. She stayed here for one season and in thirty-three appearances, she scored seven goals.
She also competed for the China national soccer team from 1990 until 2006. In one hundred and sixty-three appearances, she scored one hundred and six goals.
In 2000, Sun Wen was named the FIFA Player of the Century. In 1999, she won the Golden Boot and Golden Ball thanks to her impressive performance at the Women’s World Cup 1999 held in the United States.
6. Homare Sawa
Image courtesy of Sky Sports
Sixth on our list of the best female soccer players is Homare Sawa. Unlike most other professional soccer players who appear on this list, Homare Sawa made her career as a playmaking midfielder.
Homare Sawa was born in September of 1978 in Tokyo, Japan. Alongside Sun Wen, she is oftentimes regarded as one of the best women soccer players from Asia.
She competed for various clubs and her impressive career spans twenty-four seasons. She had most success with Nippon TV Beleza and INAC Kobe Leonessa.
She grew up in a loving family and all her family members were very much interested in soccer. After watching her older brothers’ soccer matches, she decided to try the sport as well.
She started playing at a very young age. Amazing Homare Sawa had her debut in 1991 when she joined the NTV Beleza team. She played for the team between 1991 and 1999. In one hundred and thirty-six appearances, she scored seventy-nine goals.
In 1999, she transferred to the Denver Diamonds team. She stayed there one season before joining Atlanta Beat. In fifty-five appearances, she scored thirteen goals.
From 2004 until 2008, Homare Sawa played for the Nippon TV Beleza team. During four seasons, she scored forty-seven goals in eighty-five appearances.
She also competed for the Washington Freedom team in 2010. In forty-one appearances, she scored six goals. Between 2011 and 2015, she played for the INAC Kobe Leonessa team.
She scored twelve goals in ninety-four appearances. Amazing Homare Sawa also played for the Japan national soccer team for twenty-two years.
7. Christine Sinclair
Christine Sinclair is the only Canadian on our list of the most successful female soccer players. Christine Margaret Sinclair was born in June of 1983 in British Columbia, Canada. She was born to Sandra and Bill Sinclar.
Since her father and uncle were both soccer players, Christine was introduced to the sport at a very young age.
She started playing soccer when she was only four years old. In addition to playing soccer, Christine was also an active baseball and basketball player.
She played as a second baseman in her hometown’s boys’ baseball league. At the age of eleven, Christine made it to the under-fourteen British Columbia all-star team and this is when she decided to fully focus on playing soccer.
With her team Burnaby Soccer Club, she won five provincial and six league titles. With the same team, she competed in several national tournaments. Before making her debut in the senior soccer industry, she competed for the Canadian under-eighteen national team.
Christine enrolled at the University of Portland in 2001. From the very beginning, she was a member of the university’s soccer program.
During her first season, she scored twenty-three goals.
She competed for Portland Pilots four seasons and in ninety-four appearances, she scored one hundred and ten goals.
From 2001 to 2002, she played for the Vancouver Breakers team. She also spent two seasons playing for Vancouver Whitecaps FC before joining FC Gold Pride in 2009.
Christine also spent one season playing for the Western New York Flash team. Since 2013, she plays for Portland Thorns. In one hundred and forty-six appearances, she scored sixty goals. Since 2000 Christine has been a member of the Canada national soccer team.
8. Renate Lingor
Image courtesy of fussballmuseum.de
Eighth on our list of the best female soccer players is Renate Lingor who during her extremely fruitful career won two UEFA cups, two bronze medals at the Olympic Games, three World Cup titles, and five national titles.
Renate Lingor was born in October 1975 in Karlsruhe which back then was part of West Germany. Renate Lingor was always very private about her personal life, so we know nothing about her family or her early childhood years.
However, we can assume that she was interested in the sport from a very young age like most other professional soccer players.
Regarded as one of the best female soccer players of all time, Renate Lingor joined the under-twenty team in 1995.
This was her debut for the German women’s soccer national team. Her first team was SV Blankenloch she joined in 1981 when she was only six years old. When she was fourteen years old, she joined the SC Klinge Seckach team.
She remained on the team for one season. In 1991, Renate joined the SC Klinge Seckach senior team where she played for six seasons, until 1997. In 1997, she transferred to 1.FFC Frankfurt where she played until 2008 when she decided to retire.
When it comes to her international career, she competed at the 2004 Olympic Games with the German national team.
She has helped the team win the bronze medal. Two years later, she was one of the nominees for the Women’s World Player of the Year, alongside Kristine Lilly from the United States and Marta Vieira da Silva who also appears on our list of the most successful female soccer players.
With the German women’s national soccer team, Renate won the FIFA World Cup in 2003 and 2007. She has also helped the team win three UEFA Women’s Championship titles in 1997, 2001, and 2005.
9. Kelly Smith
Image courtesy of Manchester Evening News
Our list of the best female soccer players also includes amazing Kelly Smith. Kelly Smith was the very first female soccer player from England to make it big at major international soccer tournaments. Her remarkable career spanned over two decades.
In one hundred and seventeen appearances with the England women’s soccer national team, she scored forty-six goals.
Kelly Smith was born in October 1978 in Watford, England. Kelly grew up in Watford in the Garston area. When she was only seven years old, she joined a local boys’ soccer team.
However, she was removed from the team due to complaints by other team members’ parents.
This is when she joined the Pinner Girls team. She had her senior debut in 1994 when she joined the Wembley Ladies team. In 1996, she transferred to Arsenal Ladies where she remained for one season.
In 1997, she moved to the United States. Between 1997 and 1999, she competed for Seton Hall Pirates. After graduating from college, she decided to remain in the United States. In 1999, she joined the New Jersey Lady Stallions where she remained for one season.
Between 2001 and 2003, she competed for Philadelphia Charge. In twenty-six appearances, she scored nine goals.
She also played for New Jersey Wildcats. In one season, she scored eight goals in eight appearances. In 2005, she decided to move back to England to play for Arsenal Ladies once again.
She remained on the team until 2009. In sixty-six appearances, she scored seventy-three goals. Then in 2009, Kelly transferred to Boston Breakers.
She scored eighteen goals in forty-six appearances. She played for Arsenal Ladies between 2012 and 2017 when she retired. Kelly competed at the 2012 Olympic Games held in London with the Great Britain women’s soccer national team.
10. Michelle Akers
Image courtesy of MAC Hermann Trophy
Tenth on our list of the best women soccer players is Michelle Akers. Michelle Akers is definitely one of those players with a huge, remarkable legacy.
In her early days, Michelle was an amazing striker while later in her career, she played in a position of a defensive midfielder.
Michelle was born in February of 1966 in California, United States. With the US women’s soccer national team, she won the 1999 Women’s World Cup and the gold medal at the 1996 Olympic Games held in Georgia, United States.
Michelle spent the majority of her early childhood years in Seattle. During her high school years, she played soccer for her school’s team.
After finishing high school, Michelle moved to Florida to attend the University of Central Florida on a scholarship.
She was named the Athlete of the Year in 1989. Her senior career kicked off in 1990 when she joined the Tyresö FF team based in Sweden.
She remained on the team until 1992 when she transferred to Orlando Lions Women. In 1994, she joined Tyresö FF once again and this is where she stayed until retiring.
For the US women’s soccer national team, she played between 1985 and 2000. She scored one hundred and five goals in one hundred and fifty-three appearances.
Since 2022, she has been working as an assistant coach for the Orlando Pride team. Since retiring, Michelle has been very active in the soccer community in different ways.
In addition to her assistant position at Orlando Pride, she is also involved in mentorship and player development. She is also known for promoting the sport as an advocate and spokesperson on social media platforms.