Megan Rapinoe, the soccer star who was part of the reigning U.S. women’s national team and one of the most politically outspoken American athletes, said Saturday she plans to retire at the end of the year, making this upcoming World Cup her last.
Rapinoe, 38, has played for the US women’s national team since 2006 and the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand scheduled for later this month would be her fourth.
“I could never have imagined where this beautiful game would have taken me,” Rapinoe told reporters during a surprise appearance at a news conference ahead of the U.S.’s game against Wales in San Jose, California, scheduled for Sunday.
“I feel so honored to have represented this country, this federation for so many years,” she said. “It really was the coolest thing I’ve ever done.”
Rapinoe perhaps made her biggest mark in 2019 when she won the Ballon d’Or as the women’s footballer of the year and won the Golden Boot as the top scorer and the Ballon d’Or as the highest player of the World Cup, with six goals
She has been outspoken on many issues, including LGBTQ rights, and has been a frequent antagonist of former President Donald J. Trump. Her leadership of the team also came at a time when it was battling with its national federation for pay equality, facing differences between the economics of the men’s and women’s versions of the sport.
Rapinoe also played in two women’s professional leagues in the United States, beginning in the Women’s Professional League, which collapsed in 2011, and in the National Women’s Soccer League. She said she would retire from the NWSL after this season.
Alex Morgan, another top star for the US team, said Rapinoe sent a text to the team’s group chat on Saturday morning to announce her decision. “Well,” Morgan said, “Now we gotta go win the whole damn thing.”