The women’s national team star made an unexpected retirement announcement ahead of a U.S. friendly against Wales.
Megan Rapinoe, the soccer star who has been a fixture of the dominant U.S. women’s national team and one of the most politically outspoken American athletes, said Saturday that she planned to retire at the end of the year, making this upcoming World Cup her last.
Rapinoe, 38, has played for the U.S. women’s national team since 2006 and the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand scheduled to begin later this month would be her fourth.
“I could have just never imagined where this beautiful game would have taken me,” Rapinoe told reporters during an unexpected appearance at a news conference ahead of a U.S. game against Wales in San Jose, Calif., scheduled for Sunday.
“I feel so honored to have represented this country, this federation for so many years,” she said. “It’s truly been the greatest thing I’ve ever done.”
Rapinoe, who has had numerous injuries throughout her career, has been dealing with an ankle injury leading up to the National Women’s Soccer League season and missed two national team friendlies against Ireland in April with a calf injury.
Rapinoe made perhaps her biggest mark in 2019, when she won the Ballon d’Or as soccer’s women’s player of the year and earned the Golden Boot as the top scorer and the Golden Ball as the top player of the World Cup, with six goals.
She was outspoken on numerous issues, including L.G.B.T.Q. rights, and was a frequent antagonist of former President Donald J. Trump. Her leadership of the team also came at a time when it was fighting with its national federation for pay equity, confronting 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 folded in 2011, and in the N.W.S.L. She said she would retire from the N.W.S.L. after this season.
Alex Morgan, another top star for the U.S. team, said Rapinoe texted the team’s group chat on Saturday morning to announce her decision. “Well,” Morgan said, “now we have to go win the whole damn thing.”