PHILADELPHIA - Need extra tickets to the Women's World Cup? Shannon Boxx won't be using hers because something more important has come up: She's playing in the games.
After one game, in fact, she's become something of a star, scoring the insurance goal in the Americans' 3-1 victory over Sweden in Sunday's opener.
For tonight's second match against Nigeria at Lincoln Financial Field, Boxx again will be starting alongside some of soccer's biggest names - Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly, Julie Foudy, Joy Fawcett - on the sport's biggest stage.
Without exaggeration, this turn of events may be described as downright stunning.
After all, Boxx had never played a game for the national team when she was summoned to a training camp last month, and no woman had made a U.S. World Cup roster without some experience on the national team.
U.S. coach April Heinrichs described Boxx's late-season work with the New York Power of the recently scuttled Women's United Soccer Association as "compelling," but Boxx's hopes of making a U.S. roster were longer range: She believed she might be considered for the 2004 Athens Olympics.
So at the conclusion of the WUSA season in August, Boxx, a 26-year-old Notre Dame graduate, enrolled in Pepperdine University's clinical psychology master's program, near her home in Redondo Beach, Calif. She took a job as assistant women's soccer coach at Cal State Dominguez Hills, also nearby. She began planning her wedding to Sean Taketa.
And she bought a strip of tickets to the four World Cup sessions scheduled at the new Home Depot Stadium in Carson, Calif. (on the campus of Cal State Dominguez Hills), so she could watch her friends and peers perform.
On Aug. 24, Heinrichs - who had called 78 players into national team camps over the past three years - summoned athletes into her office one at a time to finalize the World Cup roster of 20.
"She was telling me I did well and showed improvement," said Boxx, whose WUSA trade from San Diego to the Power led to her best pro season this summer. "The next thing I knew, she was telling me I made the team."
Boxx's response: "Could you say that again?"
In a Sept. 1 pre-Cup match against Costa Rica, Boxx started at defensive midfield and scored. Six days later, in the final tournament tune-up against Mexico, Boxx started and scored a goal. Sunday against Sweden brought her third consecutive start and third goal in three national team appearances - an unprecedented feat.
"I wouldn't be here without the WUSA," she said. "Without that league, it's hard to get recognized. Where would you play? I went to Germany after college, but being away from home, I wasn't having fun. The coach didn't speak English and I learned a little German but I never was comfortable."
When the WUSA materialized in 2001, Boxx found the ideal situation, drafted by the team closest to home, the San Diego Spirit. Last season's trade to the Power at first unsettled her, but first-year Power coach Tom Sermanni turned Boxx loose in the midfield and she "was dominating, regardless of the opponent," Heinrichs said.
"The World Cup is never what you expect," Boxx said. "You think `huge.' But in the locker room before the game it was very relaxed. We were chatting, taking pictures. I think the feeling I had was just how happy I was to be there. I was going to have fun in that game. And I did."
Without a ticket.
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U.S. team tonight
Site: Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia