Although women’s soccer has had leagues in Europe as far back as 1930 and international competitions that date back to the 1950’s, the US did not begin to have organized women’s soccer until the late 1970’s. The early 1980’s saw the spread of varsity college team and the creation of the national squad, but it was not until 1995 that the first national women’s league started and not until 2001 that the first professional league began. Even after the slow start in America, women’s soccer is now fueled by a highly successful national team (multiple Olympic gold and silver medals and two World Cup titles) and enormous participation at the youth level.
Even though organized soccer has been predominately a man’s game for much of the sport’s history, women who lived before the 19th century often participated in “pick-up” games with participants from neighboring villages. These games had a rugby-type feel to them, as they were generally an all-out riot that were continually suppressed by the government. The game became more modernized during World War I, when a factory in Preston, England had a women versus men game. The score was not reported, but the fact that the women (who at the time weren’t supposed to be working outside the home) had played a game that was seen by many allowed the game to become more and more popular. The factory’s team played for more than 50 years, hosting charity matches to help raise money for the war effort.