Brandi Chastain Says Her Soccer Career 'Got Messy in the Middle'

Chastain spoke to PEOPLE about the difficulties she faced during her incredibly successful soccer career

Any soccer fan knows Brandi Chastain for her incredible success on the field, but it wasn’t always a happy journey for the two-time World Cup champion.

Chastain, 50, told PEOPLE that although the middle of her career “got messy,” she still managed to achieved greatness.

“My career, from afar, looks really great,” she told PEOPLE. “I won two Olympic gold medals, two World Cup championships, and a silver medal and I’ve been on successful youth teams.”

Chastain played for the US women’s national team from 1988 to 2004 and iconically scored the goal-winning penalty shot in the 1999 Women’s World Cup final against China. In March 2017, she was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame.

“In the middle, I had two ACLs, I was cut from the national team, I played my professional soccer overseas because there was no program to play here in the U.S. It got messy,” she explained.

Brandi Chastain at Banc of California Stadium
Bandi Chastain. Meg Oliphant/Getty

“The beauty is that out of all of those potential career enders in a negative way, it lead me back to the national team and lead me back to understanding how important every player on the team is,” she added. “Just because you aren’t playing 90 minutes doesn’t mean you aren’t participating in the outcome.”

Having retired from the sport, Chastain — who is married to Santa Clara Broncos head coach Jerry Smith and share son Jaden, 13 — now acts as coach and mentor for the Allstate All-American roster, a program that recognizes the best high-school soccer players in the country.

“Soccer is very important part of the sport culture here in the United States, and we recognize that young people are participating in numbers that we have never seen before,” she said. “We can find good players everywhere, and so I want to be supportive of players from all kinds of environments.”

Brandi Chastain
Brandi Chastain. AP/REX

While working with the high schoolers, she uses her lessons from the field and translates it as a coach, including both her greatest mistakes and biggest accomplishments throughout her career.

Soccer player Brandi Chastain
Matthew Eisman/Getty

“My life has been forever changed by sitting on the bench, being cut, losing matches, being injured, having support, getting up, getting knocked down, changing my course,” she said.

“I even scored an own goal in the world Cup, that is like the most egregious mistake you can make in soccer,” she added. “Because of all the leaders I had, they helped me learn resilience and grit, so I am a by-product of every single coach and player I had ever had the fortune of gracing the field with.”

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