What opportunities exist for American women to compete and excel in world class soccer? The story of Carla Werden Overbeck proves just how wonderful the opportunities can be for athletes who are willing to work for them. Thirty-two years young at the time she is being inducted into the Hall of Fame, Carla is one of the most respected and decorated international players in the world. Her appearance for the U.S. National Team in their match against Japan on December 16, 2000, was her 167th and final international game. Now it’s time for her to retire, sit back, and relax. So what will she do? She’s planning to play for the Carolina Tempest in the upcoming inaugural season of the Women’s United Soccer Association.
Carla Werden grew up in Dallas, Texas, and started playing soccer for the Dallas Sting at age 11. She blossomed as a youth player and led the club to two national titles. By the time she graduated from Richardson High School where she played volleyball and basketball, Anson Dorrance, the coach of most dominant college program in the country – the University of North Carolina – had identified her as a blue-chip soccer recruit. She accepted a scholarship and became a Tar Heel. After receiving a degree in psychology from UNC in 1990, she married Greg Overbeck in 1992, with whom she resides in Chapel Hill. Their son Jackson was born in 1997. Carla is presently an assistant soccer coach at Duke University. Her impact on soccer in North Carolina and on the international stage has been and continues to be impressive.
Carla Overbeck’s outstanding career as an amateur and U.S. National Team player have earned her the distinction of being selected as a member of the fourth class of inductees of the North Carolina Soccer Hall of Fame on this, the twenty-seventh day of January, 2001.
While playing for Carolina, Carla helped the Tar Heels earn four NCAA championships. She was named to the Soccer America All-Freshman team and was a three-time NSCAA All-American. Her first appearance for the U.S. National Team against Japan in June of 1988 began a thirteen-year career with that program. She started every game for the U.S. in the 1991 FIFA Women’s World Cup when the USA captured U.S. Soccer’s first world championship. A defender, she led a group that allowed just five goals in the six games played in that World Cup. In 1993 she became the captain of the U.S. National Team, an honor she held until she retired from the national team program. She scored her first goal in international play on August 19, 1994, when she scored twice in the USA’s 10-0 win over Jamaica. In 1995 Carla was a finalist for the Women’s Sports Foundation Athlete of the Year in a group that included Bonnie Blair, Steffi Graff, Picabo Street, and Rebecca Lobo. In 1996 she captained the gold medal winning USA team in the Olympics in Atlanta, earning her 100th cap for the USA in the gold medal game. By 1996 she had played in 63 consecutive international games, a record for any U.S. player, man or woman. She also set a record by playing 3,547 consecutive minutes between August 4, 1993 and January 18, 1996. During that stretch, she faced teams from 19 different nations and played in seven different countries. Her consecutive games streak ended only because she took time off after the Olympics to have her baby, Jackson.
The unstoppable Overbeck was slowed by a diagnosis of Graves’ disease, a condition in which the thyroid gland produces excessive amounts of hormone. After undergoing radiation treatment to shut down her thyroid, she now functions normally with the help of medication. None of that got in the way of Carla’s commitment to physical fitness and resilience. She played every minute of all six games in the 1999 FIFA World Cup and nailed the opening penalty kick in the shootout victory in the final against China. Along the way, she set standards for conditioning that raised the bar for other would-be national team players. According to former U.S. coach Tony DeCicco, “Carla developed the culture of the national team. She had a tremendous winning mentality.”