Editor’s note: In honor of the University’s 225th anniversary, we will be sharing profiles throughout the academic year of some of the many Tar Heels who have left their heelprint on the campus, their communities, the state, the nation and the world.
Carolina is affectionately known as the “University of National Champions.” With 22 national championships, including 21 NCAA championships, there’s no Tar Heel team that lives up to that moniker better than women’s soccer.
Few soccer players worldwide can claim as many accolades as Mia Hamm, who led the Tar Heels to four of those NCAA championships from 1989 to 1994. The political science major is celebrated all over the world for her impact on soccer, particularly on female athletes.
Hamm claimed a red-shirt year in 1991 in order to compete in — and win — the inaugural FIFA Women’s World Cup in China with the U.S. women’s national team. When Hamm retired from playing for her country in 2004 — 17 years after she debuted at just 15 years old — she was the top scorer in both men’s and women’s international soccer history with 158 goals. Hamm won another World Cup in 1999 and two Olympic gold medals, in 1996 and 2004.
She finished her career at Carolina with 103 goals, 72 assists and 278 points, setting a record in each category. She was the unanimous national player of the year in 1992 and 1993 and first-team All-American in 1990, 1992 and 1993.
Hamm was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2007.
She regularly returns to Chapel Hill to do charitable work through the Mia Hamm Foundation, and whenever she’s back at Carolina, she reconnects with friends and coaches.
“What ties us all together is Carolina, this special place where we all shared so many great memories,” Hamm told GoHeels.com last year during a visit. “It’s about the people and that connection. I’ve been to a lot of different campuses all over the country, and to me, it’s still the most beautiful campus that I’ve been to.”