Heather Mitts from USA, left, battles for the ball with Melissa Wiil from Norway during the Beijing Olympics Women's soccer Group G match at Olympics Stadium in Qinhuangdao, China, Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2008. Norway won the match with score 2-0. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

(BOCA RATON, Fla., Dec. 10, 2000) – Veteran Chinese National Team midfielder Liu Ailing was the first of eight players selected today by the Philadelphia Charge in the first-ever Women’s United Soccer Association Combine Draft. Philadelphia is among eight teams that will begin play this spring in the first women’s professional soccer league in the United States.
Ailing (pronounced eye-LEAN) was chosen with the second overall pick after countrywoman Sun Wen was taken first by the Atlanta Beat. Also selected by Philadelphia on Day One of the draft were defender Heather Mitts from the University of Florida, defender Jenny Benson from the University of Nebraska, forward Ruth Van’t Land-Parkes from Cal Poly Pomona, forward Sarah Yohe from the University of Florida, midfielder Raven McDonald from the University of North Carolina, midfielder Rebekah McDowell from the University of North Carolina and midfielder Michelle Demko from the University of Maryland.
“Overall, we are thrilled with our picks. The eight women we selected were all within the top 30 players on our board,” said Charge Head Coach Mark Krikorian. “Liu is perhaps the best central midfielder in the world and displays wonderful technique to read the game. She has over 10 years experience with the Chinese National Team and we are very pleased to select her. Mitts and Yohe were largely responsible for Florida winning the national championship in 1998. Benson is a fierce competitor with great speed who can also attack out of the back and Van Land is a very dangerous, athletic and strong player. McDonald is one of the top outside midfielders around who is great on the attack and hard-working on defense. McDowell could be the sleeper of the draft. She has a high work rate and is considered one of the best midfielders to come out of North Carolina. Demko is a very talented midfielder who has really developed her game over the last three years in Germany.”
A starter on China’s national team since 1987, Ailing is considered one of the top playmakers in the world. The 33-year-old is the only Chinese player to participate in all three Women’s World Cups (1991, 1995, 1999) and was named a WWC All-Star in 1999 after helping lead China to the championship game. Ailing was also a part of the silver medal-winning Chinese team at the 1996 Olympics, played in the 2000 Olympics and has six Asian Women’s Championships on her resume. The 5-5 midfielder was selected the Most Valuable Player of the 11th Asian Games after scoring four goals in the semifinals and two goals in the championship match.
A member of the United States Under-21 National Team pool in 1999-2000, Mitts played in one game with the full national team against Finland in January 2000. She was a two-time NSCAA All-American at Florida from 1996-99 and helped the Gators capture the NCAA Championship in 1998. The 22-year-old was also a first team All-Southeastern Conference pick in 1998 and 1999 and was nominated for the prestigious Missouri Athletic Club Award in 1999. Mitts played for the Tampa Bay Extreme of the W-League in 2000.
Benson moved from the midfield to defender in 2000 for Nebraska and was named an NSCAA first team All-America after helping the Cornhuskers record a school-record 16 shutouts in 24 games. She finished with four goals and nine assists as Nebraska went 22-2 and reached the third round of the NCAA Tournament. A four-time All-Big 12 Conference selection, Benson finished as Nebraska’s all-time leader in assists (47) and was a finalist for the Missouri Athletic Club Award.
Van’t Land-Parkes picked up California Collegiate Athletic Association Player of the Year and first team All-CCAA honors in 2000 after recording 17 goals and nine assists in 19 games. She finished her career as the school’s all-time leader in goals, points, assists and hat tricks and established single-season records of 30 goals and 66 points in 1998.
Yohe was named the 1999 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year after leading the league and tying for third in the nation with 24 goals. She set a school record with a goal in nine consecutive games as a senior in 1999 and shared the Player’s Choice Award (team MVP) with Mitts. Yohe was named to the 1998 NCAA Championship All-Tournament Team as Florida captured the title and was selected the 1997 SEC Tournament MVP after recording four goals and an assist. The 22-year-old also starred academically, as she was chosen the 1999 NSCAA Scholar Athlete of the Year.
McDonald totaled three goals and three assists this season to help North Carolina go 21-3 and repeat as national champion. It was the Tar Heels’ third title during her four years. McDonald started 98-of-103 games played during her career and finished with 29 goals and 30 assists with 12 game-winning goals. She also played on the United States Under-21 National Team at the 1998 and 1999 Nordic Cup.
McDowell also won three national championships with North Carolina during her four-year career (1996-99). As a senior, she was named a third team All-America by the NSCAA and College Soccer Online and was named second team All-Atlantic Coast Conference. McDowell participated in the Umbro Select College All-Star Classic in 1999 and was a three-time member of the U.S. Under-21 National Team that played in the Nordic Cup.
Demko appeared in one game with the United States National Team (at Germany) in 1997 and had several stints with the squad in its pre-Olympic training camp in Florida in 1996. She was a first team All-ACC performer at Maryland in 1995 after leading the Terrapins to an 18-6 record and their first-ever NCAA Tournament win. Demko began her collegiate career at Barry University and helped them capture the Division II national title in 1992. She played for the Tampa Bay Extreme of the W-League in 2000 after spending three years in the German Women’s Bundesliga.
The WUSA Combine, featuring over 200 invited players, included full days of games and workouts from Dec. 5-9 at Florida Atlantic University. The draft began at 9:00 a.m. ET today and will continue at 8:00 a.m. ET on Monday with rounds 9-15.
The Charge draft picks join Philadelphia’s three previously allocated players – midfielder Lorrie Fair, goalkeeper Saskia Webber (Rutgers University) and forward Mandy Clemens – as well as high-scoring English forward Kelly Smith (Seton Hall University) and German defender Doris Fitschen, who were selected in the league’s Foreign Player Allocation Draft.
The WUSA was formed in February 2000 and is scheduled to begin play this April in eight markets: Atlanta, Boston, Carolina, New York, Philadelphia, San Diego, the San Francisco Bay Area and Washington, D.C.