Tisha Venturini-Hoch Elected to National Soccer Hall of Fame
Legendary USWNT midfielder earned 134 caps and won a championship at every level of play
Tisha Venturini-Hoch loved to win, and she played that way every time she set foot on the pitch.
Throughout her playing career, she collected countless trophies and medals — and she’s the only player in U.S. Soccer history who has won championships at five levels.
Driven by her passion for soccer and her sublime talent, Venturini-Hoch is the only person who has won a Women’s World Cup (1999), an Olympic gold medal (1996), four NCAA Division I titles and a women's professional league championship (not to mention several high school titles). Her astounding record will be next to impossible to duplicate.
“Tish was the one of most skillful and tactical midfielders I have ever coached,” former U.S. Women’s National Team assistant coach Lauren Gregg said. “Her ability to change the game from wherever she played was phenomenal. She was a midfielder but because she was such a student of the game, an incredible tactician and so technical, she had that uncanny ability to excel wherever she played.”
Venturini-Hoch’s accomplishments were not lost on the National Soccer Hall of Fame’s Veteran Committee, which voted the Modesto, Calif., native into the Class of 2024. She will be inducted during ceremonies in Frisco, Texas, on May 4.
To put Venturini-Hoch’s career into proper context, we need to examine her overall record.
She tasted defeat only 40 times out of 353 contests. That included a 54-0-2 record at Grace Davis High School in Modesto, Calif., a 97-1-1 mark at the University of North Carolina, a 113-14-7 career with the USWNT and a 26-25-13 record with the San Jose CyberRays of Women’s United Soccer Association (with whom she won the 2001 title).
That works out to a 290-40-23 record and an 88.67 winning percentage, but her career was about far more than just numbers. Just ask North Carolina women’s coach Anson Dorrance.
“She checked every box in midfield,” he said on his Vision of a Champion podcast in 2021. “Very rarely do you have a midfielder who can do everything, that can score goals, that can create goals, that can defend, that can dominate the air. What was amazing about her ability in the air was her timing. It was almost like she knew exactly where the ball was going. … The number of goals she scored, and not just for us, I’m talking about for the Olympic team, the full national team, was extraordinary.
“I think her goal percentage out of midfield for the United States has to be one of the highest percentages of all the midfielders through the history of the National Team. She was an absolutely complete player.”
Born in Modesto on March 3, 1973, Venturini-Hoch was a natural athlete. When she was 10, Venturini-Hoch played on an Under-12 boys team.
“It helped me develop as a player because I had short hair and the boys on the other team wouldn’t realize I was a girl at first,” she told the Modesto Bee in 1988.
Venturini-Hoch credited her parents for sacrificing the time and energy to give her the building blocks to be successful.
“They encouraged me to do anything I could,” she told the newspaper in 1996. “When other parents would dump kids off [at games], someone [in her family] would be there watching. That was a given. It was great to look on the sidelines and see someone cheering. That’s something a lot of kids don’t have. And it made a difference.”
Venturini-Hoch made a name as a standout performer in three sports at Grace Davis High School.
“I could play this game every day. I love soccer,” she told the Modesto Bee in 1988. “I’d get sick of playing softball or volleyball all the time, but not soccer.”
During her senior season in 1991, she was featured on ESPN’s Scholastic Sports America.
“If I were coaching against Tisha, I would have two people guarding her,” Davis head coach Marsha Hoagland told the Bee.
Venturini-Hoch also was an outstanding softball player. She was a four-time All-District selection with an area-best .516 batting average as a second baseman in 1991. As a senior, she drove in nine runs, scored 10, and hit three triples and four home runs.
She turned to soccer full-time at North Carolina, playing on a team that included a host of talented players, including future Hall of Famers Mia Hamm (2007) and Kristine Lilly (2014).
Her journey to Chapel Hill had an intriguing twist.
“I was in a panic because I was losing some of the top players in my recruiting class that I hadn't offered any money to because all of my money was tied up in Tish,” Dorrance said on his podcast. “Tish was clearly one of the best players in the country coming out of high school. I had offered her a full scholarship. I’m on the phone with Chick Venturini and saying, ‘I am just so sorry, but we’re losing our whole recruiting class waiting for Tish to make up her mind. Do you know when she's going to decide?’
“Chick was absolutely wonderful,” Dorrance said. “This is why he’s in the women's soccer parents’ hall of fame. He said, ‘Anson, please don’t worry about it. If my daughter decides to go to North Carolina, I can certainly afford it. So please don't worry about the scholarship.’”
“It was like I had died and gone to heaven. Are you kidding me? No parent says that. It's all about their ego and the ego of their kids.”
Venturini-Hoch went on a full scholarship as a sophomore.
The Tar Heels compiled an astounding 97-1-1 mark enroute to four national championships. Venturini-Hoch was a four-time All-America selection and won the Hermann Trophy and the Missouri Athletic Club Player of the Year award in 1994. She registered 69 goals and added 51 assists while starting 93 of 95 games and leading the nation in scoring with 58 points (21 goals and 16 assists).
The two blemishes on UNC’s record — a loss to rival Duke and a draw with Notre Dame — still gnaw at Venturini-Hoch.
“I remember like it was yesterday,” she told USSoccer.com in 2020. “It happened unfortunately to Duke University, which made it a hundred times worse, on our home field. We had almost a 100-game winning streak on that field. So that was a devastating day for us. But you know what? Maybe that was what we needed, a little spark. Then we ended up tying Notre Dame, who we ended up beating for the National Championship. So, it all worked out.”
Venturini-Hoch made her USWNT debut in a 3-1 loss to Norway in Medford, Mass., on Aug. 14, 1992. She scored her first goal in a 3-0 win over Germany in Decatur, Ga., on April 10, 1993, and went on to make 134 appearances, scoring 47 goals and contributing 21 assists before her retirement in 2000.
In big games, she was world-class reliable. From 1995 to 1997, Venturini-Hoch played in 13 Women’s World Cup or Olympic matches and scored seven times.
“She was a player we would rely on to score in countless games,” Gregg said. “She would go in and within 10 minutes, in whatever period of time she had, she was scoring for us. She figured out what the game needed from her and how to use her strengths so eloquently.”
While Venturini-Hoch was superb at volleying the ball and a fine shooter from distance, her unique ability to head the ball past opposing goalkeepers made her one of the best in the world.
“That was pretty much my bread and butter,” the 5-foot-9 midfielder said. “I scored a lot of goals with my noggin.”
She probably is best remembered most for her two header goals in a 3-0 win over North Korea in the U.S.’s final group stage game at the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup, in Foxborough, Mass. Venturini-Hoch’s backflip celebration after her second goal was an instant classic.
“I could flip around pretty good, so I always had that in my back pocket,” she told USSoccer.com. “I don’t think I had ever done it before in front of my teammates. After I scored, I was running toward the sideline. What else do you do if you get to play in a World Cup and score a goal?
“Julie Foudy was in the background of a picture and her mouth was wide open. She was like, ‘What the heck?’ Nobody realized that I could do that.”
While she never made a big deal about it, Venturini-Hoch also wrote her name into the history books as the first women’s soccer player to score an Olympic goal. She accomplished that in the 37th minute of a 3-0 victory over Denmark in Orlando, Fla., on July 21, 1996, when the sport made its debut in the Summer Games.
Hamm lobbed a looping cross into the area, where Tiffeny Milbrett headed it to Venturini-Hoch, who beat the goalkeeper with a point-blank header.
“It was a bouncing ball, and it bounced up and I was running straight at the goalie,” she said. “I just dove and popped it in. I could have gotten killed. It was kind of a sloppy goal, but it went in, and it was in the Olympics. That was pretty rad.”
Today at age 50, Venturini-Hoch lives in Orange County, California, with her two children, and she still believes in women’s professional soccer. In fact, she put her money where her passion is, becoming an investor in Angel City FC of the National Women’s Soccer League in 2020.
After reading the names of former USWNT teammates and other high-profile women who were involved with the expansion team’s investment group, Venturini-Hoch realized it was an opportunity she couldn’t pass up.
“I’ve been a part of a lot of great teams in my life,” Venturini-Hoch told the Bee in 2020. “I got an email from Foudy and Mia, and any time I can be associated or involved with anyone I played with, I am in.”
She also has strong beliefs in youth soccer, teaming with Lilly and Hamm to form the Team First Soccer Academy.
“Our message to these young players is, number one, you’ve got to have fun,” Venturini-Hoch said. “It was fun for us. Sure, we played at the highest level and won all these amazing championships and individual honors, but it was fun. People lost sight of that. [Today] it’s all about winning and how good am I and am I going to get a scholarship? What about the fun part? We encourage the kids to get out of their comfort zone and work hard.
“Don't be afraid to make a mistake because all these kids are worried about making mistake and they’re going to get pulled out of the game or they're going to get yelled at. That’s no way to develop as a player or have fun.”