Megan Rapinoe, one of the most iconic soccer players and personalities in the history of the game, has announced that she will retire from professional soccer following the conclusion of the 2023 National Women’s Soccer League season.
Known for her amazing talents on the field, her creative goal scoring, her clutch performances in some of the biggest matches of her career, as well as for her deep caring and support for a myriad of social issues including LGBTQ+ rights, racial inequality, voter rights, and gender and pay equity, she leaves the game as one of the most impactful figures in the history of soccer in the United States and in the global women’s game.
Rapinoe publicly came out as gay in July of 2012 and has been an outspoken and visible advocate ever since. She was also the first white athlete and first female to kneel during the national anthem in solidarity with football player Colin Kaepernick.
She will play in her final World Cup this summer in Australia and New Zealand and then will finish the 2023 NWSL season with her long-time club OL Reign to complete her historic soccer career.
“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. “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.
“I want to thank my family for being by my side all these years. Thanks to all my teammates and coaches all the way back to my first days in Redding, on to college at the University of Portland and of course thanks to U.S. Soccer, the Seattle Reign and especially Sue, for everything. I will forever cherish the friendships and support over the years in this game, and I am beyond excited for one last ride with the National Team and the Reign.”
Rapinoe, 38, began her international career in July of 2006 (a few weeks after her 21st birthday) when she debuted against the Republic of Ireland in San Diego. She scored her first two international goals on Oct. 1, 2006, tallying twice against Chinese Taipei at what is now the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif.
She currently has 199 caps over a span of 17 years playing for her country and will soon become the 14th U.S. player in history to reach 200 caps.
Rapinoe is preparing to play in her fourth Women’s World Cup, having represented the USA in 2011 in Germany, 2015 in Canada and 2019 in France, famously helping win the last two World Cup titles. She also played in the 2004 FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup in Thailand as well as the Olympic Games in 2012 (when she won a gold medal), 2016 and 2021.
In her 199 caps to date, the USA has an overall record of 157-14-28, a winning percentage of 86%. She has appeared for the USA in three different decades and has scored 63 career goals with 73 assists.
Rapinoe is tied with Abby Wambach for third all-time in assists for the USWNT and is one of only seven players in USWNT history with 50+ career goals and 50+ career assists. She is the only player in the 50 goal/50 assist club with more career assists than goals.
She heads into the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, her last, having played in 17 World Cup matches while scoring nine goals. She played in 14 Olympic matches and scored five goals. She has started 142 of her 199 caps, coming off the bench 57 times, and has served as team captain for 15 matches – matching her longtime jersey number.
Rapinoe played for five different USWNT head coaches, scoring multiple goals under all of them.
“Megan Rapinoe is one of the most important players in women’s soccer history and a personality like no other,” said U.S. Women’s National Team head coach Vlatko Andonovski. “She has produced so many memorable moments for her team and the fans on the field that will be remembered for a very long time, but her impact on people as a human being may be even more important. It’s been a wonderful experience to coach her in the NWSL and for the National Team and I’m looking forward to her being an important part of our team at the World Cup.”
Rapinoe had an epic 2019 as she collected numerous prestigious awards including The Best FIFA Women’s Player of the Year, the France Football Ballon d’Or and the Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year. She won the Golden Ball as the best player in the World Cup and the Golden Boot as the top scorer with six goals. Her penalty kick goal in the World Cup Final was her 50th career goal. Her “are you not entertained?” pose after several of her goals become renowned and mimicked worldwide.
One of her many memorable performances came in the quarterfinal of the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany where her long service in the waning seconds of overtime was headed in by Wambach to send the match to a penalty shootout, in which she scored, helping the USA to victory.
Long before “the pose,” few players displayed more joyful goal celebrations than Rapinoe. In group play at the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup against Colombia, she scored on a blast from distance early in the second half, ran to the corner, grabbed the TV microphone and famously sang “Born in the USA” by Bruce Springsteen.
In the semifinal of the 2012 Olympics, she scored twice – both spectacular strikes – in the dramatic 4-3 victory over Canada.
In the 2021 Olympic quarterfinal, Rapinoe nailing the game-winning penalty kick on the USA’s fourth attempt against the Netherlands to send her team to the semifinals.
In the bronze medal game, she put in an epic performance, scoring two spectacular goals, one straight off a corner kick, to help the USA win the bronze medal with the 4-3 win over Australia.
In a feat probably never to be repeated, Rapinoe scored “Olimpicos” – goals directly off corner kicks — in two Olympic Games, in 2012 and 2021.
She is also one of just 18 USWNT players to play more than 11,000 minutes in a U.S. uniform.
On July 1, 2022, it was announced that Rapinoe had been selected by President Joe Biden to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, which she received at the White House on July 7. Rapinoe is the first soccer player to receive the award and one of just six female athletes or coaches to be so honored.
“Megan is a generational talent,” said USWNT general manager Kate Markgraf, whose international career overlapped four years with Rapinoe. “When you talk about players performing on the biggest stages, she’s right up there with the best to ever do it for the U.S. Women’s National Team. And that’s just her contributions on the field. Her contributions off the field are the epitome of someone who saw that she had a large platform and used it for good.”
One of the few players remaining in the NWSL who played in the second iteration of women’s pro soccer in the USA – the WPS – she has played her entire 11-year NWSL career for the Reign, for whom she has scored 48 goals with 25 assists, good for sixth in the league all-time. She also had a stint with Olympique Lyon in France over 2013-2014.
Megan Anna Rapinoe was born and grew up in Redding, California, a small city about 200 miles north of the San Francisco Bay Area, with her twin sister Rachael, and excelled in many sports, including high school basketball. She played most of her youth club soccer for Elk Grove and attended the University of Portland with Rachael where she won an NCAA Championship in 2005. She was an All-American with the Pilots and came back from two ACL surgeries in college and an additional one in late 2015 to have one of the most memorable careers in U.S. history.
She is engaged to be married to women’s basketball icon Sue Bird, who played 21 seasons in WNBA before retiring in 2022 after winning a fifth and final Olympic gold medal with USA Basketball in 2021.