Briana Scurry is a living legend. Her soccer career has yet to be replicated by another because since 2017 she remains the only Black female soccer player to be inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame. Aside from that, she has been immortalized in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in different capacities notably among the Title IX exhibit.
Her trailblazing career began at the age of 12 in Dayton, Minnesota as the only Black girl on the soccer team. Her coach put her in the goal post thinking he was protecting her from getting injured. Little did he know that he was grooming one of “the best players in the world” when she was at the peak of her career.
Scurry continued to play soccer at Anoka High School where she became the 1989 high school All-American player. She earned an athletic scholarship to the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and majored in political science. While in college, Scurry continued playing soccer and was the 1993 National Collegiate Goalkeeper of the Year.
We would have had a lawyer instead of this legendary footballer had it not been the US women’s national team coach, Tony DiCicco, who poached Scurry in 1993 when she was contemplating pursuing a career in law. This made her the first African American female soccer player on the Women’s National Team.
In 1994, she became the starting goalkeeper for the US National Women’s Soccer team (USWNT) holding that starting position for the next six years. Her first major national win was in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta when the USWNT took home the gold medal allowing only three goals in the five-game Olympic tournament.
She is also remembered for her historic win over China in the penalty shootout at the 1999 World Cup where 90,000 spectators gathered at the Rose Bowl to watch the game that cemented women’s soccer status in the United States.
The team took home the World Cup and the two most memorable celebrations were Brandi Chastain’s famous goal celebration and Scurry’s iconic “fist-clenching and high-stepping exuberance”, both memorialized on the famous Wheaties cereal box.
Scurry knew she had become the poster girl for Black girls everywhere who nursed the passion to play soccer because throughout the 1990s she remained the only Black starter player on the national team.
That came to an end when she was benched at the 2000 Olympics. Scurry became the first woman to play in a woman’s paid professional league when she joined the now-defunct Atlanta Beat. Being the fighter that she is, she earned her starting spot back in 2002.
According to Stars and Stripes FC, in between playing for the National team and Atlanta Beat, the 3-time Algarve Cup winner, 2-time CONCACAF Gold Cup winner, and 2-time Olympic gold medalist suffered some injuries on the field, and the major head-injury which led to her retirement in 2010 almost left her for dead and broke.
Since then, she has become a concussion awareness advocate and has since testified before Congress on Traumatic Brain Injuries in sports, according to her site.
Her team also knew she was gay and as one of the first Black professional female soccer players as well as one of the first out LGBT players, Scurry is an ardent advocate for LGBTQ rights.
In March 2016, UMass announced that because of “Scurry’s impact on the legacy of the U.S. Women’s National Team program and contributions on the field her original paraphernalia will be exhibited at the National Museum of African-American History & Culture.”
“Soccer had already given me so much more than I could possibly give back. Now, to be inducted alongside the likes of Michelle Akers, Mia Hamm, and Kristine Lilly – I am truly humbled. Thank you for letting me play for you and thank you all for this incredible honor,” Scurry said when she was elected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame.
The original gloves and jersey she wore during the 1999 Women’s World Cup Final are on exhibition at the FIFA World Football Museum, a place that celebrates the rich heritage of football. Additionally, the entire 1996 US Olympic Women’s Soccer Team has been inducted into the Olympic Hall of Fame.
In all, Scurry will remain an inspiration for future generations of Black female soccer players with a career on the USWNT spanning from 1994 to 2008. She has an astounding career record of 159 starts, 133 wins, 12 losses, 14 draws, with 71 clean sheets.
“Briana Scurry at her peak – no one has ever played better than that for the USA,” DiCicco, who coached Scurry, told The Washington Post in 2013. “She was the best in the world. That’s the truth.”