The star of the United States team that won the first Women’s World Cup in 1991 and a co-winner of FIFA’s award for the greatest woman player of the 20th century.
Akers, who battled chronic fatigue syndrome for much of the 1990s, won a second World Cup in 1999, but by the time that final was decided on penalties, she was in the locker room, receiving an intravenous solution to help her recover from her day’s exertion.
Akers first came to worldwide notice at that first Women’s World Cup in China in 1991, at which time she was playing forward and was named Michelle Akers-Stahl. In the United States’ six games, she scored 10 goals, including both American goals in the 2-1 win over Norway in the final. In that 1991 season, Akers set a long-lasting women’s national-team record for most goals by a player in one year, with 39 in 25 games.
At the 1995 Women’s World Cup in Sweden, she was injured in the United States’ first game and did not return until the semifinals, in which the United States was eliminated. Her injury was considered a large factor in the United States’ failure to defend its championship.
In 1999, she once again played a leading role, but by this point in her career had converted to playing as a defensive midfielder and was as much famed for her legendary strength of will as for her talent. She scored a key goal on a penalty against Brazil in the semifinals, but her main effort went into controlling Brazil’s and China’s high-powered offenses.
At the 1996 Olympics Games, before which she had played a significant role in convincing the International Olympic Committee to add women’s soccer to the program, she played in all five of the United States’ games.
Although she was outstanding at the 1999 Women’s World Cup, in which she played in five of the United States’ six games, she had to struggle against her medical problems throughout. She retired the following year with 153 appearances in the U.S. women’s national team and 105 goals in those games.
Akers was a four-time all-American at the University of Central Florida and won the first women’s Hermann Trophy in 1988. In the early 1990s, she played three seasons with the Tyreso club in Sweden, becoming one of the first American women ever to play professional soccer.
Inducted in 2004.