[HISTORY] The U.S. women's national team's trip to Italy for the playoffs series that will determine the final berth in the 2011 Women's World Cup begins back memories of the women's national team's launch that began a quarter century ago with an invitation to travel to Italy.
As Chuck Blazer told Soccer America's Mike Woitalla in 2000, the national team didn't exist before 1985 and he had gotten women's soccer into the Sports Festival that year by getting FIFA to say that there was going to be a world championship in the future.
Blazer, who headed the U.S. national teams committee at the time and is now the general secretary and one of the 22 members of the FIFA executive committee that will vote on the 2018 and 2022 World Cups in December, says the team picked from the Sports Festival was intended to be a paper team, but out of the blue U.S. Soccer got an inquiry from Aldo Sciarrino, who was the Lamborghini representative in the USA and invited the Americans to Italy for a tournament on behalf of the Italian soccer federation.
The U.S. federation was broke, but Blazer worked things out.
"We shifted costs around. I was able to get Alitalia to eat some of the airfare," he said. "Aldo and I kicked in some more money, and by the time we were finished we had a team that was flying into Milan and taking a bus to Jesolo."
The first game was against Italy, an established European power, and the Americans lost, 1-0.
The story goes that the goal was scored after the Italians were called for a foul -- but took the ball themselves and raced down the other end of the field and scored on a breakaway. The Americans stood stunned but the referee did nothing.
The Americans lost three games and tied one, but they had a great time.
"We were just so happy to be there," Tucka Healy told Soccer America contributor Bob Griendlin. "While watching the Denmark-Italy game, we grabbed an Italian flag and rushed to the sidelines, where we led a cheer. They were totally shocked that we'd cheer another team."