Paul Caligiuri's professional career spanned 16 years, during which he played for numerous teams in the United States and Germany, and for the U.S. national team. He was a central figure in the national team from the 1980s through the mid-1990s, and started every U.S. match in both the 1990 and 1994 World Cups. During his 14 years as a defender and defensive midfielder with the national team, he earned 110 caps and scored five goals. In 1997, he played his final game for the national team.
Caligiuri is best remembered for his game-winning goal widely dubbed the "Shot heard round the world," which he scored in a 1–0 World Cup qualifier victory over Trinidad and Tobago on November 19, 1989. The victory qualified the United States for the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy, its first World Cup berth since 1950. There Caligiuri notched the first World Cup goal for the U.S. national team in 40 years, scoring in a 5–1 defeat against Czechoslovakia.
Caligiuri was born in Westminster, California. After graduating from Walnut High School, he attended UCLA from 1982 to 1985. During his four seasons with the Bruins, he was twice named an NCAA All-American. He also captained the Bruins to an NCAA Championship his junior year and represented the U.S. at the 1983 Pan American Games.
After graduating from UCLA, Caligiuri played the 1986 season with the San Diego Nomads of the Western Soccer Alliance, earning the league's Most Valuable Player award. He was also named the 1986 U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year. Caligiuri's rookie professional accomplishments attracted the attention of German Bundesliga club Hamburger SV, who signed him after his appearance in the 1986 FIFA/UNICEF All Star Game. Caligiuri had an illustrious professional career in Germany playing for two seasons in the Bundesliga.
In 1995 he returned to the United States to sign with the Los Angeles Salsa of the American Professional Soccer League. Caligiuri donated his entire salary from the Salsa that season to the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing.
After another year in Germany with FC St. Pauli, Caligiuri returned to the United States where he signed with the Major League Soccer and played for the Columbus Crew and Los Angeles Galaxy. Caligiuri's final professional appearance was in the 2001 U.S. Open Cup Final on October 27, 2001, where the LA Galaxy defeated New England Revolution 2–1 in extra time.
In 2004, Caligiuri was inducted into the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame. He serves as an athlete representative on the board of directors of the United States Soccer Federation. He is currently an Area Director for the Pateadores Soccer Club. He is also the Head Coach for the Orange County Football Club, Men's Semi-Pro soccer team in the NPSL (National Premier Soccer League.)