U.S. Woman Plays Record 300th Soccer Match
MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
From NPR News, THIS IS ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
And I'm Melissa Block. Kristine Lilly had just turned 16 when she joined the U.S. Women's National Soccer team in 1987. Now, at age 34, she's reached a remarkable milestone. This week, Lilly played in her 300th international game for the U.S. National Team, 300 appearances, also known as CAPS. No soccer player anywhere in the world, man or woman, has ever touched that mark. The record for all time appearances in men's soccer is 173 games. Kristine Lilly joins us from Guangzhou, China, where's she's playing in the Four Nations Tournament. Congratulations, Kristine.
KRISTINE LILLY: Thank you very much.
BLOCK: And I take it you're already up to 301 games as of today.
LILLY: I am, 301 today, actually.
BLOCK: Well, tell us about the milestone game, 300. It sounds like it was quite a day.
LILLY: It was. And it's funny when I think about this whole process. You know, when you start playing, you don't think about how many games you want to play. It's more about winning championships, or making the team, being the starting lineup. So, you know, when this came up that I was getting close to 300, and then finally on Wednesday when I hit it, it was one of those things that I had to look at and say, you know what, I'm proud of it because I feel like I've been a part of something not only on the field, but off the field. And playing in 300 games, to me it means I've worked hard for that.
BLOCK: You did it in some style. You had a goal and an assist in that game.
LILLY: Yeah. It was one of those days where things were going right. And actually, they had a presentation before the game, presenting me with a banner and flowers, and my team did some great things for me, as well.
BLOCK: Aren't you tired?
LILLY: I'm actually exhausted right now.
BLOCK: But in general, after 18 years of soccer, playing all the time.
LILLY: You know, it is, but I think when you find something you love, when you're exhausted, it doesn't last as long. You get over it, and you get out on the field and you do it.
BLOCK: I guess one of the interesting things about your milestone, getting to 300 games, is that you were able to join this sport when it was in its infancy. I mean, you were 16 years old, so you had a long career ahead of you, and not a lot of competition in the early days for who my boot you off that team.
LILLY: Yeah. No. It's been very interesting. I think one of the reminders that I get that I was on the team in '87 is one of the girls on our team was born that year. So it kind of makes me realize, okay, maybe I am around too long. But, you know, I was a part of it in the beginning, women's soccer wasn't that big, and then things started to happen. A bunch of us would always talk and say, you know what, if we just get people to come out and watch us, then I think we'll get fans. And you know, that's what's happened in the span of almost 20 years, that people started to come to watch and were like, you know what, these women can play.
BLOCK: But at the same time, the WUSA, the U.S. Women's Soccer League, is dissolved now. How much of a blow is that?
LILLY: Well, when you look at the whole picture of things, it is a little frustrating. Of course, we do want the league back, and I still feel passionately about it and will support it any way I can. But it's a process. And it's not only about the game, it's a business.
BLOCK: With this 300th game in your cleats now, are you at a point where you can see a time when you will be retiring, when you're done?
LILLY: You know, I do look at it. Right now, my short-term goal is to make it through every month. My long-term goal is to try to make it to the next World Cup in 2007.
BLOCK: What will you think will replace soccer, or will you still be, do you figure, coaching?
LILLY: Well, I run my own soccer camp. I will continue to develop the young kids, and maybe be a part of WUSA if it does return. But I think the game has given me so much, and I've been part of the game for so long that leaving it completely will be impossible.
BLOCK: Kristine Lilly, congratulations on reaching your 300th game.
LILLY: Thank you.
BLOCK: Kristine Lilly, who has now played 301 international games for the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team, speaking with us from Guangzhou, China.
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