Mary Harvey: Soccer Pioneer as a Player, Excecutive

Jan. 8, 2010

By Dean Caparaz '90

Mary Harvey was arguably the best goalkeeper in the history of California women's soccer. However, she has made a bigger impact on the game since ending her college career.

The former U.S. National team stalwart has been involved in several soccer firsts as a player and an administrator. Harvey worked at the sport's highest levels, including at the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and the U.S. Soccer federation, before moving into her current role as the chief operating officer for Women's Professional Soccer, the women's pro league in the United States.

'It was a great launch year,' Harvey said of 2009. 'It was one that can be categorized as building and adjusting.'

She was inducted into the Cal Athletic Hall of Fame in 2000 and became the first woman inducted into the American Youth Soccer Association (AYSO) Hall of Fame in 2003. Harvey and fellow former Golden Bear Joy Fawcett were enshrined into the U.S. Olympic Committee Hall of Fame in 2004 as members of the U.S. team that won the 1996 Olympic gold medal.

Harvey played at Cal from 1983-86 and led the Bears to three top-five finishes in the NCAA Tournament, including in 1984 when Cal finished fourth in its first foray to the semifinals and she was named the NCAA All-Tournament goalkeeper.

Cal finished fifth in 1983, when Harvey started as a freshman, and in 1986, when was named the adidas National Goalkeeper of the Year. She graduated in 1987 with a bachelor's degree in business administration.

Harvey won the first Women's World Cup as the starting U.S. goalkeeper in 1991. She was the backup on the U.S. squad that placed third in the 1995 Women's World Cup and on the team that won the first Olympic women's tournament in 1996.

She played semi-professional ball in Germany (for FSV Frankfurt, 1988-91) and Sweden (for Hammarby, 1993, and Tyreso, 1994).

Harvey retired after the 1996 Olympics due to injuries - she's had three back surgeries - and a lack of playing time.

'Combined with the fact I was 31, it was time to get my career started again,' she said.

Harvey became a player advocate, establishing the U.S. Soccer's Athletes' Council and working for U.S. Soccer for 12 years, including five years on the U.S. Soccer Executive Committee. She contributed to the task force charged with writing the U.S. Soccer Player Bill of Rights.

She ran a small company before receiving her MBA from UCLA in 1998. Harvey was a consultant at Deloitte for three years and consulted for the U.S.-hosted 1999 Women'sWorld Cup.

Harvey worked for FIFA, the worldwide governing body of soccer, in a prestigious role as its Director of Development in Zurich, Switzerland, from 2003-08. She became the first woman and first American appointed to run a major business unit. As a member of the senior management team, she oversaw several projects that impacted the game, particularly on the women's side, all over the world.

Harvey didn't necessarily see her career winding this way.

'When you retire from playing, you tend to want to contribute to the sport,' she said 'I went this route. I love the game. I didn't set out to do that, but I guess later I stopped playing, went to business school, got involved in U.S. Soccer business, and it was a wonderful experience. I was trying to bring a contribution to the game.'

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