In the present day, womens football is taken very seriously as a spectator sport while the funding and support provided by established Premier League clubs has been invaluable to the current crop of players in the UK.

However, this wasnt always the case and for years, women have had to battle to get their sport noticed. Out of all the players to have made their mark across the world in those formative years, perhaps these five have been the greatest ambassadors of all.

    Mia Hamm

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Its not only the television companies who have gradually taken an interest in the game and these days, bookmakers such as Betfair will provide markets for games across the globe. Players such as Mia Hamm have been instrumental in these developments and while its tough to name one footballer as the greatest ever, this United States international certainly enjoys one of the most tangible claims.

Incredibly, her first international cap came at the age of 15 before she helped the USA win the first ever Womens World Cup four years later. When she retired in 2004, the striker had notched an amazing 158 goals in 275 appearances a truly phenomenal record.

    Marta

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At 28, Brazilian international Marta has plenty of time left in her career to add to an already impressive set of stats. The centre forward has already claimed a host of individual awards and only needs to add a team trophy with Brazil to make her career complete.

One of the stars of London 2012, Marta averages better than a goal every game for her country and going into the new season she currently has 82 strikes in 72 full internationals. The FC Rosengard striker also won FIFAs player of the year award for five consecutive seasons from 2006 onwards.

    Abby Wambach

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US football fans will argue as to who is the better player Hamm or Wambach? Mia Hamm was certainly one of the early ground breakers for womens soccer but in recent years, Abby Wambach has progressed to eclipse her countrys scoring records.

The Western New York Flash striker is now the United States leading scorer with 168 in 222 internationals and at 34, her playing career shows no sign of slowing down. In 2012, she also became the first American woman in ten seasons to win the FIFA World Player of the year award.

    Kristine Lilly

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If trophies were handed out on the basis of longevity alone, US international midfielder Lilly would scoop a host of awards and it was a testament to her immense fitness and physique that she was still playing international football well into her late 30s.

Lilly carried on playing at club level with Boston Breakers until she was 40 and at the end of an incredible 23 year association with the US national side, she had earned a total of 352 caps, scoring on 130 occasions in the process.

    Birgit Prinz

The only German international in this group, Prinz ended her international career in 2011 but not before she set a host of records along the way. Unlike many of the players on this list, Prinz was loyal to one club, spending 13 years with Frankfurt while fitting in a two year stint with Carolina Courage in the US.

Her career with Frankfurt yielded an amazing scoring ratio that exceeded a goal every game. 259 strikes in 227 fixtures at club level can be added to 128 in 214 for Germany as she picked up three successive FIFA player of the year awards from 2003 to 2005.