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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Highlighting Megan Rapinoe, one of the biggest and most prominent names in soccer history, and her legacy

The athlete announced her retirement a mere two weeks before the 2023 Women’s World Cup

 

By MEGAN JOSEPH — sports@theaggie.org

 

On July 9, professional soccer player Megan Rapinoe appeared in a press conference to announce that she would be retiring from the sport following this year’s Women’s World Cup.

“I just want to say thank you to everybody. I could have never imagined where this beautiful game would have taken me,” Rapinoe said in the conference. “The greatest thing that I have ever done.”

Rapinoe has truly been one of the most influential women’s soccer players of all time. From accomplishments ranging from a gold medal to a golden boot, she has done it all.

Although Rapinoe is 38 years old and one of the oldest players on the United States Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT), she does not show it, with her skill and devotion to the game still clearly coming through. Throughout the years, Rapinoe has been a true inspiration as she’s spoken out for the LGBTQ community, equal pay for women, the Black Lives Matter movement and voting rights. She is one of the most accomplished and tenacious athletes in the United States today.

Rapinoe recently completed a sizable accomplishment on July 21 when she made an appearance in the United States’ game against Vietnam. The game ended in a win for the U.S. with an ending score of three to zero, but held a much larger meaning for Rapinoe. This game marked her 200th cap, or the 200th game that Rapinoe has played in, for the USWNT. This accomplishment has only been completed by three other athletes in U.S. soccer history, making Rapinoe the fourth.

This accomplishment is accompanied by many others that she has achieved while playing on the USWNT for 17 years. It still doesn’t seem like much time has passed since she made her team debut in 2006, appearing in a friendly match against Ireland. In October of the same year, Rapinoe achieved her first international goal in a match against Taiwan where she scored twice. It has been a thrilling experience to watch her career since then, with her now 63 goals on the international level alone. Rapinoe, tied with teammate Alex Morgan, holds the 10th spot for the USWNT all-time goals scored list. She is currently one goal short of tying for ninth place with old teammate Christen Press at 64 goals.

This is not the only history Rapinoe has made throughout her career. In the 2019 Women’s World Cup final in France, Rapinoe scored off a penalty shot that gave the U.S. the upper hand over the Netherlands for a two-to-zero win. At the time, she was 34 years old and set a record as being the oldest player to ever score in a final at the Women’s World Cup.

The 2019 season was arguably Rapinoe’s best season in part due to the incredible win at the Women’s World Cup, but also due to multiple other factors. Rapinoe was named Best FIFA Women’s Player, won both the Golden Ball and the Golden Boot and was awarded the Ballon d’Or Féminin, which is only awarded to the best in soccer.

Not only is Rapinoe a powerhouse on the Women’s National Team, she’s just as strong in her professional club team. Over the years, she has scored a total of 67 professional club goals.

As for her earlier days, Rapinoe first started her club soccer career playing as a youth at Elk Grove Pride in 2002. She later played Division I soccer at the University of Portland where she scored 30 goals and had 60 appearances.

While playing for the Pilots, Rapinoe got called up to play for the U.S. Women’s Senior team in 2006. This came as a big shock considering she had not started her professional career and was still playing at the collegiate level. However, when it did come time for her to play professionally in 2009, she was selected second overall in the Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) draft by the Chicago Red Stars.

Rapinoe played in 38 games for the Red Stars before the club ceased operations in 2010. She then signed with a sister club, Philadelphia Independence, almost immediately. However, after only playing a mere four games, Rapinoe was traded to the MagicJack club. The struggles did not stop there as WPS voted to terminate the MagicJack club in 2011, making Rapinoe a free agent.

With this new freedom, Rapinoe decided to explore teams internationally by signing to play as a guest player for the Australian W-League with Sydney Football Club for two games where she even scored a goal. After that, it took Rapinoe until the following summer in 2012 to find the right fit at the Seattle Sounders with fellow USWNT members Alex Morgan, Hope Solo, Sydney Leroux and Stephanie Cox.

Her newfound team was short-lived: she only played in two games for the Sounders before she was taken away with the USWNT to play in London for the 2012 Summer Olympics. However, Rapinoe did not stop there and, following the Olympics, initially signed a six-month contract with the Olympique Lyonnais where she made her Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Women’s Champion League debut.

Rapinoe played in 28 games for her new French team and ended up scoring eight goals before returning to her home turf in the U.S. where she joined her current team, Seattle Reign, which has since changed its name to OL Reign, all in the same year. She has been playing for OL Reign for the last 20 years and plans to finish out her final season as she returns from the 2023 Women’s World Cup.

Although this world cup resulted in a heartbreaking loss for the U.S. Women’s team against Sweden that came down to a penalty shootout, Rapinoe played a very strategic game and left the team with her head held high. It’s safe to say we have not seen the last of Rapinoe in whatever she chooses to do moving forward and she will always be an exceptional inspiration and soccer player.

 

Written by: Megan Joseph — sports@theaggie.org