The 38-year-old is also showing a more vulnerable side as she prepares to step away from the game.
CHICAGO – Whether she’s advocating for equal pay and racial justice or just scoring a rare goal from a corner kick, Megan Rapinoe has been unabashedly authentic throughout her career your football.
As she prepared to leave, 38-year-old Rapinoe also appeared more vulnerable.
Rapinoe sobbed after her America’s loss to Sweden at this summer’s Women’s World Cup, knowing that this would be her last tournament with the national team. She got emotional again last weekend while playing in the final match between her NWSL team, the OL Reign, and the Portland Thorns.
“I have loved every moment of my career,” she said through tears at last month’s World Cup in Australia. “I’ll miss it to death, but I feel like it’s the right time. And that’s okay.”
On Sunday, Rapinoe will play her final game in a U.S. uniform when the United States faces South Africa at Chicago’s Soldier Field at 5:30 p.m. EDT on TNT. She will have a few more regular-season matches for the Reign, including a send-off for local fans in Seattle on October 6.
“Obviously, the Pinoe the world sees is an incredible person and person. And that’s also her approachability and personality: She brings a sense of humor and lightness, but intensity and empathy, and fairness – she’s one of a kind,” the person said. “There’s never been anyone like her,” said guard Kelley O’Hara. Maybe no one will ever be near her.”
Portland is where it all started for Rapinoe. As a freshman at the University of Portland, she helped lead the Pilots to the 2005 national title.
Canadian Christine Sinclair, who also played for the Portland Pilots, said she and Rapinoe grew up together, attending university before playing on opposing professional club and national teams.
“I’ve spent almost my entire career competing with her since college, whether it was in Canada or in Portland. I respect her very much. We’re definitely two different kinds of people, but what she’s done for the sport, I think she’s helped inspire a whole generation of young soccer fans,” Sinclair said.
Rapinoe went on to win a pair of World Cups and both gold and bronze medals at the Olympics. In just over 200 appearances for the US team since her debut in 2006, she has scored 63 goals. She scored two goals directly from corner kicks at the Olympics.
At the 2019 World Cup in France, Rapinoe scored six goals, including a penalty in the final against the Netherlands. With his lavender hair, victory pose, arms outstretched, he became one of the iconic images of America’s race for dominance.
She won the tournament’s Golden Boot and Golden Ball for the best overall player, and later that year was named FIFA’s and best female player. won the prestigious Golden Ball.
“I don’t think there are enough words to describe Megan and her impact on the sport,” forward Lynn Williams said. “From equality to human rights, the list goes on and on. So it’s going to sting a little bit to not see her on this team and wearing the badge anymore.”
With the Reign, Rapinoe is one of five players to have spent his entire career in the NWSL playing for just one club.
But for all her achievements in the game, she is perhaps just as well known for her advocacy and activities off the field.
Rapinoe led her team’s long fight for pay parity with their men’s national team, starting with an EEOC complaint in 2016. The case was finally resolved last year, When both teams reached a contract with US Soccer that paid them equally and split prize money for the league.
Among publicly prominent athletes, Rapinoe has been outspoken on LGBTQ issues, including transgender rights.
At the 2019 World Cup, controversy arose when an old video surfaced of her saying she would not go to the White House if the team won the tournament. It caught the attention of former President Donald Trump and he tweeted: “Megan should never disrespect our Country, the White House or our Flag, especially for having done so much for her and the team.”
The team did not go to the White House after winning the championship – but there was a ticker tape parade in New York City.
“She was a huge personality both on and off the field,” said former coach Jill Ellis. “And I think she really thrives in these moments.”
In 2016, Rapinoe knelt during the national anthem to show solidarity with Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback. He knelt during the national anthem to call attention to racial inequality.
US Soccer responded by imposing a rule that players must stand for the national anthem, which was rescinded in 2021.
The reality of aging finally hit Rapinoe this summer at the World Cup. She is no longer a full-time starter and appears to be a step slower.
In the round of 16 against Sweden, the match went to penalties after a goalless draw and Rapinoe uncharacteristically missed a penalty kick – only the second PK of her career. This is the first time the Americans have failed to reach the semi-finals of the premier soccer tournament.
Despite her frustration at the moment, Rapinoe doesn’t lose sight of the big picture.
“I feel very lucky and very grateful to have played as long and played for as many successful teams as I have, and to be part of a very special generation that has done so much in the world,” Rapinoe said. and off the field. “It’s hard to feel disappointed in any way.”