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Amazing Moments in Olympic History: 1996 Women's Soccer Team

June 03, 2009, 4:24 p.m. (ET)

At the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games, women's soccer made its debut, and Team USA won the first gold medal in the sport. Despite it being women's soccer's entrance into the Games, the U.S. Olympic Team competed in front of record-breaking crowds.

On Aug. 1 at the gold-medal game, 76,481 supporters gathered in the stands in Athens, Ga., to watch the United States and China vie head to head. At the time, that was the most spectators to attend a female sporting event worldwide. At the end of regulation, America's Olympic Team came out on top. Shannon MacMillan and Tiffeny Milbrett scored the two goals to overcome China's one, thereby securing victory.

The trek to Olympic gold began with a total of eight teams. In the primary round, each team participated in three games. Afterward, two games were played in contention for a medal. Ties were possible in the primary round games, but penalty-kick shootouts determined games in the following rounds.

Sixteen players partook in each team's competition, and Team 1996 consisted of Michelle Akers, Brandi Chastain, Joy Fawcett, Julie Foudy, Carin Gabarra, Mia Hamm, Mary Harvey, Kristine Lilly, MacMillan, Milbrett, Carla Overbeck, Cindy Parlow, Tiffany Roberts, Briana Scurry, Tisha Venturini and Staci Wilson.

In spite of having tens of thousands of fans present at games and being on the track to the gold, the women's soccer team was given no live coverage during the 1996 Games. Team members were upset by this and felt that their stellar performances were being overlooked and undermined.

During a previous match at the Atlanta Games, the women's soccer U.S. Olympic Team defeated Norway 2-1 in Athens, Ga. Akers knocked in the first goal, and MacMillan scored the game-winner in sudden-death overtime. In a game before that in Miami, American's Olympic Team ended in a tie with China. Another preceding game in Orlando, Fla., ended in a 2-1 American triumph over Sweden, where Venturini and MacMillan each had a goal.

The 1996 U.S. Olympic Team had been together throughout the '90s, and the teammates formed bonds that allowed them to play seamlessly with one another. The competitors earned their places in history by joining together to accomplish an amazing moment: being the first team to win a gold medal in the women's soccer event.

"Amazing Moments in Olympic History" will be published every Wednesday on teamusa.org.  Check back weekly to see more landmark achievements and incredible feats in the history of Team USA and the Olympic Movement.