Mia Or Marta: Who Is Greater?
Mia Hamm has long been the face of women's soccer, acclaimed as the most eminent female player to ever play the game.
But in the years since her career has come to a close, a new star has risen to prominence.
Hailing from Brazil, Marta Vieira da Silva's absolute dominance of the sport has earned her four consecutive FIFA Women's World Player of the Year awards.
Both are diminutive strikers, measuring 5'4", who use their pace and skill to dismantle defenses.
And both have become the most dominant players in their respective eras.
Inviting the question: Who is greater?
Mia: For Club
In their respective careers, Mia Hamm and Marta Vieira da Silva have both amassed an impressive array of accolades for both club and country.
In 2000, Mia Hamm helped found the first women's professional soccer league, the Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA).
Hamm played in the league for a total of three seasons. Despite the fact that Hamm was already 30 years old, between 2000-2003 Mia amassed an impressive 25 goals in 49 appearances.
In 2003, Hamm lead the Washington Freedom to win the WUSA Founder's Cup Championship.
Marta: For Club
Marta started her soccer career in her native Brazil, where she played for Vasco da Gama in Rio de Janieiro, starting at the young age of 14.
Marta played another year for a minor club before she was signed to Umea, a Swedish professional soccer team.
It was in Sweden where Marta's career flourished, scoring an outstanding 111 goals in 103 appearances between 2004-2008.
During her time playing for the Swedish club, Marta was named the top scorer for 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2008. She also won the award for best forward in 2007 and 2008.
In 2009, Marta made the move to the newly formed WPS, where she currently plays for the FC Gold Pride.
In her two years, Marta has won two consecutive golden boots and two consecutive MVP awards.
Recently, she has added a WPS championship to this list of accomplishments, as she led the FC Gold Pride to a title.
Mia: For Country
Hamm began her international career in 1987, becoming the youngest person ever to play for the United States national team, aged only 15 years old.
In 1991, Hamm was called up to play in the FIFA Women's World Cup. At 19, Hamm became the youngest American to win a FIFA World Cup.
In 1999, Hamm went on to break the all-time international goal record, when she scored her 109th goal against Brazil. Within the same year, Hamm lead the United States to another World Cup Championship.
In 2001 and 2002, Hamm was the recipient of the FIFA Women's World Player of the Year Award.
In 2004, Hamm helped to lead the United States to a gold medal in the Summer Olympics, retiring shortly after.
The same year, Hamm was named to a FIFA endorsed list of the 125 greatest living players (one of only 2 women to make the list) as selected by Pele.
Hamm ended her international career with 158 goals. She is currently the record holder for most international goals, for both men and women.
In 2007, Hamm was named to the national soccer hall of fame.
Marta: For Country
In 2007, Marta lead Brazil to the FIFA World Cup title game, where they lost to Germany.
Despite their defeat, Marta was still named the top individual player for the tournament, winning both the "golden ball" and "golden shoe" awards.
In 2008, Marta earned a silver medal in the Summer Olympics.
Marta has been the recipient of the FIFA World Player of the Year award for the past four years (2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009).
She was also the runner-up for the award in 2005.
Mia: Influence Off The Pitch
Hamm has long since been recognized as a figure for female athletes, and a driving force behind the popularization of soccer in the United States.
Hamm has graciously assumed her role as a role model for female athletes around the world, and has worked tirelessly to promote this cause.
The establishment of WUSA was largely reliant upon the celebrity of Mia Hamm, the face of women's soccer.
Her imprint on the game is still undeniable, as her silhouette was selected to stand as the logo for the newly formed Women's Professional Soccer League.
Hamm established the Mia Hamm Foundation in 1999, which is dedicated to combating bone marrow diseases and the advancement of female athletics programs.
The foundation is still in existence, and continues to support the these causes.
For now, I think Mia keeps her title as the greatest female soccer player ever to play the game, not so much for her myriad of achievements on the pitch, but more for her efforts towards furthering women's athletics.
Mia Hamm has set records, won Olympic medals and World Cups, but the greatest thing she did was to inspire a whole generation of young Americans and women all over the world.
But, Marta Vieira da Silva is only 24 years old. We can only imagine what she is capable of accomplishing. Who knows? In ten years' time, Marta may dethrone Mia.
But for now, Mia Hamm is, and may always be, considered the greatest female soccer player of all time.