Sara Whalen was a key defender for the U.S. Women's National Soccer team (USWNT) that beat China for the 1999 World Cup. That event was the springboard for the rising popularity of women's soccer in the U.S. Whalen played on the USWNT from 1997 to 2000, winning an Olympic silver medal in her final year with the team. Later, she became a founding player of the Women's United Soccer
At the University of Connecticut, Whalen was a three-time All-American and won the 1997-98 Honda Sports Award as the top college soccer player in the country. She was also the National Soccer Coaches Association of America's player of the year in 1997 and named to Soccer America's All-Decade college team of the 1990s.