10 Greatest Female Soccer Players in History

Michael CummingsWorld Football Lead WriterMay 28, 2012

10 Greatest Female Soccer Players in History

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    The popularity of women's soccer has increased exponentially since the inaugural Women's World Cup in 1991, and with the improved quality of play has come a steady stream of great players over the years.

    This is our list of the 10 greatest female soccer players ever.

    Most of these names you'll recognize, whether you've followed the game only in America or on the world stage.

    Who would make your top 10? Let us know in the comments.

10. Kelly Smith

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    English legend Kelly Smith has won loads of silverware during a sterling career with Arsenal.

    And since debuting for England as a 17-year-old in 1995, she has scored 45 times in 111 international matches.

9. Hanna Ljungberg

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    Hanna Ljungberg scored 72 international goals for Sweden in a career that lasted from 1996-2008, and she was a vital member of the team that finished second at the 2003 Women's World Cup.

    Ljungberg—no relation to former Arsenal player Freddie Ljungberg—finished third in the FIFA World Player of the Year voting in 2003.

8. Renate Lingor

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    The midfield general for Germany's 2003 and 2007 Women's World Cup-winning teams, Renate Lingor claimed two World Cup winners' medals, five German league titles and five German Cup crowns during a 12-year professional career.

    Lingor didn't score as many goals as some on this list (35 in 147 international caps), but she influenced games like few others.

7. Cristiane

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    Like the highlight video says, you can't have Marta without Cristiane.

    Cristiane, 27, finished third in the FIFA World Player of the Year voting in 2007 and 2008. She has won the Copa Libertadores with Santos, the Bundesliga with FFC Turbine-Potsdam and a runner-up medal with Brazil at the 2007 World Cup.

    In just 45 international appearances, Cristiane has already scored 31 goals.

6. Abby Wambach

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    Abby Wambach is still going strong at age 31 (she turns 32 in June), fresh off leading the United States to a runner-up finish at the 2011 Women's World Cup.

    Wambach will forever be remembered for a dramatic, late equalizer against Brazil in the knockout rounds, but that's not all she's done.

    In 178 appearances for the US (so far), Wambach has scored an amazing 134 goals.

    In a few more years, Wambach could be higher on this list. A five-time winner of the US Soccer Athlete of the Year award, Wambach needs a World Cup title on her resume to achieve soccer immortality.

5. Homare Sawa

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    Japan's Homare Sawa shot to international fame as the leader of Japan's thrilling run to the 2011 Women's World Cup title.

    She finished as leading scoring and earned the Golden Ball as the tournament's best player, and in January 2012, she beat Marta for the FIFA Women's World Player of the Year Award.

    Sawa, 33, has scored 80 goals in 176 appearances for Japan.

4. Sun Wen

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    Sun Wen, a lethal Chinese striker, won the Golden Boot and Golden Ball as the top scorer and best player of the 1999 Women's World Cup.

    She scored 106 goals in 152 international appearances before retiring in 2006, and in 2002 she was named Women's Co-Player of the Century by FIFA.

    The only hole in Sun Wen's resume is a lack of a World Cup title. Her China team was the losing finalist in the famous 1999 penalty shootout against the United States.

3. Birgit Prinz

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    Birgit Prinz, whose lethal striking ability led Germany to Women's World Cup titles in 2003 and 2007, was the first player not named Mia Hamm to win the FIFA Women's World Player of the Year award.

    Prinz claimed that honor in 2003, 2004 and 2005, and she retired in 2011 with 128 goals in 214 international appearances.

    She won Bundesliga and German Cup twice each with FSV Frankfurt, and she currently holds the record for most Women's World Cup goals at 14 (tied with Marta).

2. Marta

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    Highlights: Here

    The women's game has never seen a player quite like Marta.

    Arguably the most talented women's player of all time, Marta has an endless supply of skills, tricks, moves and goals at her disposal.

    Winner of the FIFA Women's World Player of the Year award a record five times, Marta has scored an amazing 80 goals in just 72 international appearances.

    Still only 26 years old, Marta has the chance to become the greatest female player of all time. First, though, she'll have to win a World Cup title.

1. Mia Hamm

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    When discussing the all-time greats of women's soccer, it's Mia Hamm and everybody else.

    Marta's fans will argue that Hamm couldn't match Marta's skill and flair, and they're probably right. But no female player has accomplished more, or had a greater impact on the game, than Mia Hamm.

    Twice the FIFA World Player of the Year, Hamm led the United States to FIFA World Cup titles in 1991 and 1999 and Olympic gold in 1996 and 2004.

    Hamm made 275 senior appearances for the United States, retiring at age 32 after scoring a national record 158 goals.

    What's more, she was the face of women's soccer in America. Together, the popularity of Hamm and the USWNT inspired millions of American girls to take up the sport.