High-SchoolGirl: Marta Vieira da Silva
Lars Baron/Getty ImagesMarta has become a full-fledged superstar in soccer-mad South America, where the women's game has long struggled to make inroads.ESPN is marking the 40th anniversary of Title IX by unveiling the top 40 female athletes of the past 40 years.
American midfielder Leslie Osborne still remembers the first time she saw the No. 22 woman in ESPN's countdown play.
Marta, as she was simply known, was only 16 at the 2002 Under-19 Women's World Cup, but she already was special enough to leave an impression.
"She had qualities I had never seen before in other female players," Osborne recalls.
Still just 26, Marta already has gone on to be a five-time FIFA World Player of the Year (2006-10). She has netted 80 goals in 72 games for Brazil, and was the leading scorer in Women's Professional Soccer during each of her three seasons.
Read the complete story from espnW here.
Earlier in this series:
No. 40: Diver Fu Mingxia
No. 39: Jockey Julie Krone
No. 38: Gymnast Mary Lou Retton
No. 37: Hockey player Cammi Granato
No. 36: Soccer player Kristine Lilly
No. 35: Basketball player Diana Taurasi
No 34: Volleyball player Flo Hyman
No. 33: Soccer player Abby Wambach
No. 32: Swimmer Mary T. Meagher
No. 31: Marathoner Joan Benoit
No. 30: Sprinter Gail Devers
No. 29: Basketball player Nancy Lieberman
No. 28: Marathoner Grete Waitz
No. 27: Soccer player Michelle Akers
No. 26: Basketball player Chamique Holdsclaw
No. 25: Swimmer Dara Torres
No. 24: Golfer Nancy Lopez
No. 23: Swimmer Tracy Caulkins