Megan Rapinoe played her last soccer match with the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) on Sunday, Sept. 24, and it’s hard to imagine what the playing field will be like without her.
The 38-year-old 2019 World Cup MVP took the field with the USWNT at Soldier Field in Chicago to face South Africa in an exhibition game. The packed stadium screamed her name and waited eagerly for the soccer superstar to score a goal in her final match.
It certainly would have been the perfect ending to a 17-year career filled with historic moments.
Rapinoe had two opportunities. First, at the start of the second half of the game, she completed a corner kick that was first blocked by the goalkeeper but then headed into the net by teammate Emily Sonnet. Then, she made a free kick that glanced off the goal’s crossbar.
“I almost got one,” Rapinoe told The Washington Post. “So close. Damn.”
A goal or documented assist may not have been in the cards for the veteran forward for America’s team. But, that didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits as she took her final bows when she subbed out of the game in minute 53.
As her number came up on the board, the crowd of more than 25,000 fans rose to their feet. Rapinoe switched out with her teammate waiting on the sidelines, who went into the game after giving a hug to one of soccer’s most popular players.
One by one, Rapinoe’s teammates embraced their mentor until finally, the soon-to-be-retired player waved to the crowd, blew some kisses, and yelled, “I’m out!” to the sideline.
Rapinoe announced her retirement from professional soccer in July and plans to end her playing days following the 2023 National Women’s Soccer League season.
“I’ve been able to have such an incredible career, and this game has brought me all over the world and allowed me to meet so many amazing people,” said Rapinoe in her statement released by U.S. Soccer. “I feel incredibly grateful to have played as long as I have, to be as successful as we’ve been, and to have been a part of a generation of players who undoubtedly left the game better than they found it. To be able to play one last World Cup and one last NWSL season and go out on my own terms is incredibly special.”
In addition to her four Women’s World Cup appearances (with two championships) and three Olympic appearances (where she won a gold medal in 2012), Rapinoe is also known for her advocacy for women and human rights on and off the playing field.
In 2019, Rapinoe spoke out loudly on behalf of her USWNT teammates as part of a discrimination lawsuit against U.S. Soccer due to pay discrepancies between the men’s and women’s teams. The parties reached a settlement in 2022 for $24 million to help close the wage gap.
This effort, as well as work as an LGBTQIA+ advocate and civil rights earned Rapinoe the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2022 from President Biden.
“I am humbled and truly honored to be chosen for this award […] and feel as inspired and motivated as ever to continue this long history of fighting for the freedoms of all people,” she shared in a statement upon receiving the recognition.
While Rapinoe has officially retired, she will still be finishing her season with the National Women’s Soccer League as part of Seattle’s OL Reign team.
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