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SYDNEY 2000 / SUMMER OLYMPICS | SOCCER

It May Be 'Originals' Ending

September 28, 2000|GRAHAME L. JONES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SYDNEY, Australia — Sometime today, Brandi Chastain, Joy Fawcett, Julie Foudy, Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly and Carla Overbeck will walk off the Sydney Football Stadium pitch and into history.

Possibly.

Chances are that after the gold-medal match against Norway at least half and possibly all of the six remaining members of the U.S. women's soccer team that won the first world championship in 1991 and the first Olympic gold medal in 1996 will retire from international competition.

Not because they no longer can compete at this level--they have proved that they still are among the best in the world--but because it is time to get on with their lives.

Fawcett, 32, of Rancho Santa Margarita, is almost certain to call it quits after 13 years with the national team.

Going into the gold-medal match, Overbeck, 32, had not played in these Olympic Games, because of injury. Her contribution has been confined to leadership off the field and inspiration from the bench. She, too, is likely to retire.

Foudy, 29, of Mission Viejo, said she has not yet made up her mind about her future with the team. She is scheduled to take over as president of the Women's Sports Foundation once the Olympics are over. A television career also beckons.

Hamm, 28, has had the highest profile of all "the originals" who were on that first championship team in 1991. As such, she has come under the most pressure, and she could well decide that the time has come to move on.

Chastain, 32, has competitive fires that still burn brightly, but it is doubtful she will want to keep going until the next Women's World Cup in 2003. Now might be the time she will step aside, while continuing as assistant coach at Santa Clara University alongside her husband, Bronco Coach Jerry Smith.

Finally, there is Lilly, 29, who sets a world record each time she steps on the field. She is the world's most-capped player, male or female, with 221 international appearances going into the gold-medal match. If any of the six keep playing after these Olympics, she is likely to be the one.

Sydney 2000 will not mean the end of soccer for the players, however, even if they do retire internationally. All are scheduled to compete in the Women's United Soccer Assn. (WUSA) when the professional league begins play in April.

*

LATE RESULT: The gold-medal women's soccer match between the U.S. and Norway started at 2 this morning. Results can be found at http://www.latimes.com/olympics or in Friday's Times.

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