Whatever Happened To Brandi Chastain, The Real Hero Of U.S. Soccer?

Since the World Cup only happens once every four years, the anticipation for such an event is always high, particularly among the few countries that have historically dominated the World Cup scene. Conspicuously missing from this list are the American men, who have never finished in the top two of the World Cup in its 85-year existence. But the American women are a different story altogether, with the 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup making Brandi Chastain a household name.

The U.S. men haven't seen any success at the World Cup, but the women have won the Women's World Cup twice. In fact, in the six iterations of the World Cup that have occurred, Team USA has finished in the top three half of the time, and in the top four 100 percent of the time. In the United States' last World Cup victory, 15 years ago, Brandi Chastain kicked the winning goal that defeated a talented Chinese team in a 5 - 4 penalty shootout.

So while the men have been getting all the attention lately, let's take a look back at one of the real heroes of American soccer: Brandi Chastain. What's she up to these days, anyway?

Remind me again, why is she a big deal?

During the third FIFA Women's World Cup games, the United States team was facing off against China. It wasn't the first time: They'd played China in 1995 when battling it out for third and fourth place. But this time, it was for the title of world champions. In 1995, the United States defeated the Chinese 2 - 0, but the Chinese team that returned four years later proved a much tougher match.

The game was tied 0 - 0 even after sudden death overtime, which sent the game into a penalty kickoff, with each team sending five players to attempt a goal. Tied 4 - 4 with only the Americans left to kick, Chastain went up to the line. Using her left foot, she sailed the ball into the Chinese goal, winning the title for the Americans for the second time in 12 years.

Was she a shoe-in to make the last kick?

Absolutely not — in fact, Chastain wasn't even supposed to be in the line-up of American kickers. Four months earlier, Chastain had been placed in a similar penalty kick situation against China, and she missed. This caused the American's assistant coach to list her as sixth in the list of potential kickers. But during the critical final moments of the game, she was given the final slot.

Why did she use her left foot?

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After missing the penalty kick against China, Chastain, like any analytical athlete, decided to reexamine her technique in an effort to improve herself. She decided to start kicking with her left foot in order to make it more difficult for goalies to read which direction she would kick. This clearly paid off, as she fooled the Chinese goalkeeper enough to win the Americans the world title.

What's all this mess about her sports bra?

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Ah yes, the infamous and ridiculously overexposed sports bra. When Chastain celebrated her game-winning goal in 1999, as she should have, she did something many male players have done — she ripped off her jersey.

This exposed a distinctly uninteresting, unremarkable black sports bra, that somehow became the focal point of the American's victory. Suddenly, it was Chastain's body that was the cause of celebration, not her incredible goal. The iconic image has, in many ways, become the trademark of American soccer, which is a pity, considering how much cooler her actual winning shot was.

YouTube

What does she think of the U.S.'s chances at the World Cup?

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While Chastain didn't go as far as Jurgen Klinsmann has in dashing American hopes and dreams of a World Cup victory, she echoed his concerns in a recent interview with ESPN. She candidly told Kate Fagan that the American's defense was "problematic," and was the "the area that needs the most attention," particularly against fast teams and players like Cristiano Ronaldo.

What's she doing these days?

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Chastain recently spoke at Santa Clara University's commencement, where she told new graduates that "everybody matters" and encouraged them all to be "impact players." Chastain has also partnered with YesVideo, a company that digitizes home videos in order to preserve and share memories.

Last year, in an interview with For The Win, Chastain explained that the untimely passing of both her parents motivated her to work with YesVideo in an effort to keep memories alive.