After the U.S. womens' win in the World Cup finals, soccer, and the girls that play it, is cool again

By Will Lee
Updated July 16, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT

They’ve sold out stadiums all over the U.S., inspired a Barbie doll, and won David Letterman’s affection. The Spice Girls? That’s so ’98. This summer’s distaff pop-culture sensation is the U.S. women’s national soccer team, led by mediagenic striker Mia Hamm.

The once-ignored 14-year-old team (which at press time was facing the Chinese in the World Cup finals) has become as ubiquitous as Latino pop stars. Check out Gatorade’s ad featuring Hamm body-slamming Michael Jordan, or Nike’s spot with a squad of booters showing solidarity in a dentist’s office. (Nike is so giddy over women’s soccer, it named a building at its Oregon headquarters after Hamm.) Or flip to CBS’ Late Show, where Letterman calls the team ”babe city.” Hamm’s self-help book, Go for the Goal, is a hot seller. And fans can even buy their own mini-team: four kicking, throwing soccer Barbies.

”They’re a group that everyone, including guys, would want to drink beer with,” says World Cup exec Steve Vanderpool. So expect Hollywood to make a pass at them. ”I’m sure someone out there wants to do a TV movie about them,” says William Morris agent Rick Bradley, who adds that Hamm could go into broadcasting or acting: ”She’s bigger than the sport.”