MacMillan first women’s soccer player to enter Hall

Shannon MacMillan, Breitbard Hall of Fame induction, March 4, 2008
By Tom Shanahan, San Diego Hall of Champions

In 2001, the newly formed Women’s United Soccer Association hoped to capitalize on the wildly successful 1999 Women’s World Cup that was played in the U.S. and won by the Americans.

So when the league officials approached members of the U.S. team about playing in the eight-team league, they asked the players to list their three preferred teams.

Shannon MacMillan, a San Diego-bred talent that was the All-CIF Player of the Year as a senior at Escondido’s San Pasqual High in 1991, filled our her form this way:

1) San Diego; 2) San Diego; 3) San Diego.

“San Diego was home for me,” MacMillan said of a chance to play with the San Diego Spirit. “It’s where I learned so much about soccer before I went off to play at the University of Portland.

“After being on the road so much traveling with the national team, I loved the chance to be founding member of the WUSA and help boost soccer in San Diego. I felt it was an honor every time I stepped onto the field.”

MacMillan makes history tonight when she’s the first women’s soccer player inducted into the Breitbard Hall of Fame as member of the Class of 2008.

“It’s a tremendous honor, and I’m proud of being from San Diego,” MacMillan said. “It means a lot to be the first women’s soccer player. My career has been blessed, but I hope I’m just the first of many more women’s soccer players.”

It will be tough to match MacMillan’s career.

After her CIF Player of the Year Award in 1991, she went on to the University of Portland, a national power in women’s college soccer. She was named national Player of the Year in 1995 when she won the Hermann Trophy, college soccer’s Heisman Trophy equivalent.

Her next Player of the Year award came from U.S. Soccer in 2002. She received the award at a presentation at the Hall of Champions during a break from the national team’s training camp at the Olympic Training Center.

MacMillan’s Hermann Trophy is on display at the Hall of Champions along with a life-sized cutout of her from her days playing for the WUSA’s San Diego Spirit days.

Her international career spanned playing for the U.S. national team from 1994 to 2003. In addition to playing for the 1999 World Cup championship team, she played on the U.S. gold medal team in the 1996 Olympics and the U.S. silver medal team in the 2000 Olympics.

In Olympic competition, she scored the game-winning goal in overtime in the 1996 Olympic semifinal against Norway and also scored the first goal in the Olympic final against China.

She finished her international career with 60 goals and with 175 caps, the 10th most of any woman in history at the time she retired.

She was granted her wish to play for the San Diego Spirit, which played its home games at the University of San Diego’s Torero Stadium. MacMillan was one of the league’s top players until a knee injury forced her to miss the 2003 season, which turned out to be the final year before the league folded.

“It was a bummer I blew out my knee the year the league folded,” MacMillan said. “If the league hadn’t folded, I might still be playing. I’d be retired from the national team, but I loved playing in the WUSA in my hometown.”

MacMillan moved on to establishing the Shannon Mac Soccer Camps that last summer were in Cardiff, San Diego, Grand Junction, Colo., and Nashville, Tenn. This summer’s camp at Cardiff will be her third year.

“When I retired, my friends were tired of having me around so much, so I started the camps,” MacMillan said. “I really enjoyed my time creating the camps. I didn’t want to have the type of camp where I just showed up for one day. I wanted to be on the field every day. I wanted to give back. But I found out the coaching is the easy part. The hard part was all the administrative work.

The next phase of her career has been college coaching. She spent her first year as an assistant coach at UCLA in the fall collegiate 2007 season.

“I loved coaching at UCLA, and I think (UCLA head coach) Jill (Ellis) is one of the best women’s coaches in the country,” MacMillan said. “I can learn a lot from her. We had a great group of girls, and I love giving back to my sport. Ultimately, though, I hope to end up as a head coach in San Diego.”

Her soccer career started here and she keeps finding ways to come back here.

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