The Top 10 Women’s Soccer Players of all time
With the 2023 Women’s World Cup in full swing, now is an ideal time to review the careers of the 10 greatest female players in soccer history.
The ongoing 2023 Women’s World Cup showcases the most talented players in the game, but how many of these current players deserve to be ranked among the best of all time? The following top 10 list has one goal – to determine the greatest players in women’s soccer history. On this list, you’ll not only find legendary stars, but also some of the pioneers who helped put women’s soccer on the map.
Who is the current best women’s soccer player right now?
The best female soccer player in the world today is Barcelona’s Aitana Bonmati, who is currently playing for Spain in the 2023 World Cup tournament. Bonmati stepped up her game for Barcelona after back-to-back Ballon d’Or Feminin winner Alexia Putellas tore her ACL back in 2022.
Putellas is still in the process of recovery, but she was able to play as a substitute in Spain’s World Cup opener against Costa Rica. With Putellas’ role reduced, Bonmati has taken charge of Spain’s starting lineup, showcasing her talent and control from her midfield position.
Bonmati played a crucial role in Barcelona's success, contributing to the club’s victories in the Spanish women's league, the Spanish Super Cup, and the Champions League. With an impressive tally of 16 goals and 19 assists, she had an all-around outstanding 2022-23 season.
Who is the most famous female soccer player?
Alex Morgan would likely have to be considered the most famous player in women’s soccer today. She’s also one of the best United States Women’s National Team players of all time, having won back-to-back World Cup championships in 2015 and 2019 as a leader of the USWNT.
The U.S. veteran has been one of the most recognized faces in women’s soccer, appearing on the cover of the FIFA video game, signing multiple sponsorship deals, and becoming an NWSL star both on and off the field. Morgan has more than 10 million Instagram followers as one of the most celebrated women in the game.
Ranking the Top 10 Best Women’s Soccer Players of all time
- Sun Wen
National Team: China
Birthdate: April 6, 1973
Years Active: 1989 to 2006
Teams: Shanghai SVA, Atlanta Beat
Trophies: Asian Cup (1991, 1993, 1995, 1997)
Awards: FIFA Female Player of the Century (2000)
Sun Wen was one of the early icons in women’s soccer, having been named the FIFA Women’s Player of the Century in 2000, an award she shared with the USA’s Michelle Akers.
Sun Wen played a pivotal role in leading the Chinese national team to prominence as one of the top stars in Asia and the world during the 1990s. Notably, she led her team to the 1999 Women’s World Cup final, where China came within a penalty shootout of winning the championship.
Wen's outstanding 1999 World Cup performance earned her the prestigious Golden Ball award as the best player in the competition, and she also shared the Golden Boot title after scoring seven goals. Remarkably, she represented her country in four World Cups, having made her first appearance at age 17.
She is one of the best retired women’s soccer players, and remains a key figure in the sport throughout Asia. With Wen leading the way, China finished second in both the 1999 World Cup and the 1996 Olympics during one of the most successful runs in its history.
- Carli Lloyd
Positions: Midfielder, Striker
National Team: USA
Birthdate: July 16, 1982
Years Active: 1999 to 2021
Teams: Central Jersey Splash, New Brunswick Power, South Jersey Banshees, New Jersey Wildcats, Chicago Red Stars, Sky Blue FC, Atlanta Beat, Western New York Flash, Houston Dash, Gotham FC
Trophies: Women’s World Cup (2015, 2019), Olympic Gold Medal (2008, 2012)
Awards: FIFA Women’s Player of the Year (2015, 2016)
Carli Lloyd is one of the best American women’s soccer players in history, and she always seemed to come up big in clutch moments on the international stage.
Lloyd scored crucial goals in both the 2008 and 2012 Olympic finals, as well as a daring hat trick in the World Cup final against Japan in 2015.
During that game, Lloyd seized an opportunity to take a shot from the midfield line when she noticed that the Japanese goalkeeper was out of position. Despite the keeper's efforts to backpedal, she couldn't prevent Lloyd’s shot from finding the net, and the goal gave the U.S. a commanding 4-0 lead within the game’s first 15 minutes.
FIFA named Lloyd its Women’s Player of the Year in both 2015 and 2016. She made 316 appearances for her country, scoring 134 goals. One of the most experienced players in women’s soccer history, Lloyd was a USWNT star who won at every level.
- Michelle Akers
National Team: USA
Birthdate: Feb. 1, 1966
Years Active: 1985 to 2000
Teams: Tyreso FF, Orlando Lions Women
Trophies: Women’s World Cup (1991, 1999), Olympic Gold Medal (1996)
Awards: FIFA Female Player of the Century (2000), National Soccer Hall of Fame (2004)
Michelle Akers was one of the first leaders of the U.S. women’s soccer team, having played in the inaugural Women’s World Cup tournament in 1991, where she put on a master class.
The iconic striker scored 10 goals at that 1991 World Cup, leading her country to the event’s first championship. Her 10 goals remain the single-tournament record to this day. That accomplishment becomes even more remarkable when one recognizes that teams reaching the final today are able to play in one more game than the 12-team 1991 tournament offered.
Akers is a proud member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame and one of the greatest players to ever appear at a Women’s World Cup tournament.
- Homare Sawa
Positions: Midfielder, Forward
National Team: Japan
Birthdate: Sept. 6, 1978
Years Active: 1991 to 2015
Teams: NTV Beleza, Atlanta Beat, Nippon TV Beleza, Washington Freedom, INAC Kobe Leonessa
Trophies: Women’s World Cup (2011)
Awards: FIFA World Player of the Year (2011)
Homare Sawa’s long career deserves to be included on this list of the greatest female soccer players in history. Growing up watching her older brother practice, she was invited to join him at age 6, and eventually made her professional debut in the top flight of Japanese pro soccer as a 12-year-old.
Sawa made 139 appearances for her first Japanese club, scoring 79 goals between 1991 and 1999 for NTV Beleza. She was called up to the national team, and made her debut for Japan at age 15.
Due to her early start at the game’s highest level, Sawa would go on to play for Japan in six World Cup tournaments and four Olympic Games. Her greatest achievement was undoubtedly leading the underdog charge of the Japanese national team in 2011. That squad overcame the odds and made it all the way to the World Cup final, where they defeated the USA in a stunning penalty shootout.
Sawa won both the Golden Ball and Golden Boot as the 2011 tournament's best player and leading goal scorer. She was also named the FIFA World Player of the Year for 2011, making her the first Asian player -- male or female -- to win a major year-end international award.
- Alexia Putellas
National Team: Spain
Birthdate: Feb. 4, 1994
Years Active: 2010 to Present
Teams: Espanyol, Levante, Barcelona
Trophies: Primera Division Femenina (2013, 2014, 2015, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023), Women’s Champions League (2021, 2023)
Awards: FIFA Women’s Player of the Year (2021, 2022), Champions League Player of the Season (2021-22), UEFA Player of the Year (2020-21, 2021-22), Ballon d’Or Feminin (2021, 2022)
Alexia Putellas just might continue to climb this list before her career is over. In recent years, the 29-year-old Spanish superstar has emerged as one of the world’s greatest women’s soccer players.
Putellas is the only player in the history of the Ballon d’Or Feminin to win back-to-back titles and has been the most dominant player in the women’s game since the start of the 2020s.
Unfortunately, a torn ACL cost her part of the 2021-22 season and almost the entire 2022-23 season, but over the two seasons prior to the injury, Putellas played at a level higher than what most women’s soccer fans are ever likely to see.
With her growing list of accolades, Alexia Putellas' achievements continue to impress, and the women's soccer community eagerly awaits her return to full health this summer. She will surely soon reclaim her reputation as one of the most captivating and exciting players in the game today.
- Christine Sinclair
National Team: Canada
Birthdte: June 12, 1983
Years Active: 2000 to Present
Teams: Vancouver Breakers, Vancouver Whitecaps FC, FC Gold Pride, Western New York Flash, Portland Thorns
Trophies: NWSL Championship (2013, 2017, 2022), Olympic Gold Medal (2021)
Awards: Canada Soccer Player of the Year (2000, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2018), Canada Walk of Fame (2013), Best FIFA Special Award (2022)
Christine Sinclair is the best women’s soccer player ever to come out of Canada, and her list of accomplishments and awards only reinforces that point.
Sinclair received the Best FIFA Special Award in 2022 for a remarkable accomplishment. FIFA officially recognized her as the all-time leading international goal scorer in the history of both men’s and women’s soccer, having scored 190 goals for Canada across all competitions.
Sinclair is one of the most iconic figures in Canadian sports history, having been named the Canadian Soccer Player of the Year a record 14 times. She can also be found in the Canadian Walk of Fame in downtown Toronto and has represented her country for more than 20 years since making her debut with the national team in 2000.
Christine Sinclair is also one of the most reliable strikers in history, firmly securing her spot on this list as one of the top women’s soccer players of all time.
- Abby Wambach - Striker
National Team: USA
Birthdate: June 2, 1980
Years Active: 2001 to 2015
Teams: Washington Freedom, Ajax America Women, MagicJack, Western New York Flash
Trophies: Women’s World Cup (2015), Olympic Gold Medal (2004, 2012)
Awards: U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year (2003, 2004, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2013), FIFA World Player of the Year (2012), National Soccer Hall of Fame (2019)
One of the most lethal strikers in women’s soccer history, Abby Wambach will always deserve to be in the conversation when it comes to naming the best women’s soccer player of all time.
Over the course of her career, Wambach made 255 appearances for the USWNT and scored a stunning total of 184 goals, which makes her the Americans’ all-time leader in career goals.
Not only did Wambach store a wealth of goals, she also seemed to always be the one who rose to the moment when it mattered most. That includes her remarkable tying goal in the 122nd minute of the USWNT’s 2011 World Cup quarterfinal match against Brazil.
Abby Wambach's collection of awards, trophies, and accolades is impressive, but the highlights of her career were winning the World Cup with the USWNT in 2015 and coming home with two Olympic gold medals. She was also named the U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year a record six times and in 2011 made history as the first soccer player -- male or female -- to be honored as the Associated Press Athlete of the Year.
- Birgit Prinz
National Team: Germany
Birthdate: Oct. 25, 1977
Years Active: 1993 to 2011
Teams: FSV Frankfurt, FFC Frankfurt, Carolina Courage
Trophies: European Championship (1995, 1997, 2001, 2005, 2009), Women’s World Cup (2003, 2007), Bundesliga Championship (1998-99, 2000-01, 2001-02, 2002-03, 2004-05, 2006-07, 2007-08)
Awards: FIFA World Player of the Year (2003, 2004, 2005), German Soccer Player of the Year (2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008)
Birgit Prinz was Germany’s lead striker during what was one of the most impressive international runs by any team in women’s soccer history.
She made 214 appearances for Germany between 1994 and 2011, during which time she helped her nation win five straight European Cup tournaments and two women’s World Cups. In those years, Germany was almost unbeatable, and simply trying to mark Birgit Prinz up front was never easy.
Prinz was awarded the FIFA World Player of the Year award three times in addition to wining eight consecutive German Soccer Player of the Year awards.
Prinz also had no trouble finding the back of the net at the Women’s World Cup, scoring 14 times in the competition. Only Brazil’s Marta has more career World Cup goals than Prinz, who is tied for first with former teammate Inka Grings on the UEFA Women’s EURO finals career scoring list with 10 goals.
National Team: Brazil
Born: Feb. 19, 1986
Years Active: 2000 to Present
Teams: Vasco De Gama, Santa Cruz, Umea IK, Los Angeles Sol, Santos, Gold Pride, Western New York Flash, Tyreso, Rosengard, Orlando Pride
Trophies: Sweden Damallsvenskan Championship (2005, 2006, 2007, 2008), Torneio Internacional de Futebol Feminino Championship (2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015)
Awards: World Player of the Year (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2018)
There might never be another player quite like Marta, who helped put women’s soccer on the map in South America. Prior to her debut for Brazil, the women’s national team was nowhere near as well established as the men’s team, which had featured some of world soccer's biggest icons and won a record five World Cup championships. Marta helped to change that, becoming one of the biggest superstars in Brazilian sports history.
Marta is taking part in her sixth World Cup this summer, having made her debut in the tournament as a 17-year-old in 2003. She was at her very best in 2007, completely dominating defenders and leading Brazil all the way to the World Cup final. Despite losing to Germany, Marta won both the Golden Ball and the Golden Boot for her tremendous performance throughout that tournament.
Marta has the honor of being the all-time leading goal scorer in Women’s World Cup competition, while also achieving great success in both Swedish and Brazilian professional leagues.
A six-time World Player of the Year, she became the very first woman to have her footprints included in the prestigious Maracana Walk of Fame at Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The walk celebrates some of Brazilian soccer's greatest players, and Marta will now forever stand among them.
- Mia Hamm
Positions: Striker, Midfielder
National Team: USA
Born: Feb. 1, 1966
Years Active: 1985 to 2000
Team: Washington Freedom
Trophies: Women’s World Cup (1991, 1999), Olympic Gold Medal (1996, 2004)
Awards: U.S. Soccer Female Athlete of the Year (1994, 1995, 1996, 1997 1998), FIFA World Player of the Year (2001, 2002), Sportswoman of the Year (1997, 1999), National Soccer Hall of Fame (2007)
Mia Hamm has very strong credentials to be recognized as the best female soccer player of all time. Of all former women’s soccer stars, Hamm was the most influential as far as growing the game both in the United States and worldwide.
Hamm was a key member of U.S. championship teams at both the 1991 and 1999 Women’s World Cup tournaments -- two events that helped to elevate the women’s game. In terms of increasing the audience for women’s soccer, perhaps no single tournament in history was more important than the 1999 Women’s World Cup, which was played in front of packed stadiums across the United States.
The former USWNT star was one of the most complete players the women’s game has ever seen, playing a combination of roles at the midfield and striker positions. She appeared in a total of 276 games for her country, scoring 158 goals. She remains one of the most successful attackers in U.S. history, wreaking havoc in front of opposing goalkeepers.
Mia Hamm was always tough to handle on the field, and she always brought out the best in her teammates, leading them by example. Her decorated career includes two World Cup championships, two Olympic gold medals, five U.S. Soccer Female Athlete of the Year awards, two FIFA World Player of the Years awards, two Sportswoman of the Year awards, and, of course, a spot in the National Soccer Hall of Fame.
Hamm continues to be a major influence in the women’s game, and is heavily involved in projects that include co-founding Los Angeles FC and serving as a global ambassador for FC Barcelona.
Many consider Hamm to be the best women’s soccer player of all time because she encouraged so many young girls to follow in her footsteps while leading the USWNT to a wealth of success. Mia Hamm therefore gets the top spot this list in recognition of her tremendous career in the game.
Parameters for Ranking
These women’s soccer players have been ranked based on their individual achievements in both domestic and international soccer competitions. Their individual awards and accolades have been factored into the ranking system, which also considered statistics, such as goals and assists, as well as any other accomplishments deserving of a spot in this all-time top 10 list.
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