Former Washington Freedom supporters club member Kevin Parker (@StarCityFan) sent in this rare Philadelphia Charge program from the Women’s United Soccer Association this week. Cover girl Heather Mitts was in the early days of her career back in 2002, both as a club pro with the Charge and as a fixture on the U.S. Women’s National Team.
The big impact players on the Charge were the team’s foreign stars – striker Marinette Pichon of France and midfielder/forward Kelly Smith of England. Mitts became the biggest American name on the Charge, partly due to her skills and model good looks, and also due to the fact that the established American stars of the day took a dim view to playing in Philly. WUSA launched each franchise with three “allocated” U.S. National Team players in late 2000. The players had a voice in which markets they wanted to play in and (reportedly) virtually no one listed Philadelphia.
As a result, the Charge were the only club among the WUSA’s eight franchises that did not receive one of the recognizable stars from the 1999 U.S. National Team that won the World Cup. Mia Hamm went to Washington, Brandi Chastain headlined in San Jose, goalkeeper Briana Scurry headed to Atlanta, Julie Foudy led San Diego, Kristine Lilly landed in Boston, Tiffeny Milbrett went to the New York Power, and Michelle Akers was allocated to her home town of Orlando (later shifted to Carolina). The Charge got a largely anonymous allotment of younger players: Mandy Clemens, Lorrie Fair and Saskia Webber.
Mitts was a stalwart for the Charge during the three-year run of the WUSA, appearing in 51 of the team’s 63 matches and earning all-league honors as a defender in 2003. Off the field, Mitts appeared on the cover of Philadelphia Magazine as one of the city’s sexiest singles and dated Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Pat Burrell and later Eagles quarterback A.J. Feeley (whom she married in 2010).
The WUSA folded in September 2003 after three seasons of play. Mitts tore her ACL in 2007 and missed the World Cup that year, but bounced back in 2008 to win Olympic gold with the USA at Beijing in 2008. She played three seasons in Women’s Professional Soccer, a successor league to the WUSA, from 2009 to 2011, including a return engagement in the City of Philadelphia with the Philadelphia Independence in the summer of 2010. She last played professionally for the Atlanta Beat in WPS in 2011.