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U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe will retire at the end of the season

Megan Rapinoe will retire at age 38, having won two World Cups and one gold medal.
Sean M. Haffey
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Megan Rapinoe will retire at age 38, having won two World Cups and one gold medal.

Megan Rapinoe, a U.S. soccer star known for her achievements on the field as well as her political activism off of it, announced on Saturday that she will retire from professional soccer at age 38.

Rapinoe will play in her fourth and final World Cup this summer before finishing the season with her National Women's Soccer League team, OL Reign. She will end her career having won at least two World Cups and one Olympic gold medal.

"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," Rapinoe said in a statement.

Rapinoe did not cite a reason for her retirement, but last year, in an interview with NPR, she acknowledged her age and that she had sustained some injuries.

"I had a couple little injuries, I'm getting a little bit older, so I want to go through the season and see how my body feels, and all that, but I feel like I still have a lot to give," she said.

Rapinoe added she looked forward to retiring with her fiancée and WNBA star Sue Bird.

"I think we're both looking forward to, like, that freedom of, yeah, maybe we like do weekend trips," she said. "I honestly want to take, like, a year and just figure it out and not do too much."

17 year career marked by goals, trophies and the Presidential Medal of Freedom

Rapinoe, from Redding, Calif., played soccer throughout childhood and college. Her international career began in 2006 when she was 21 years old during a match against Ireland in San Diego.

Over the next 17 years, Rapinoe competed in the Olympics three times and earned a gold medal in 2012 after scoring two goals in a semifinal match against Canada.

Rapinoe will have played in the FIFA Women's World Cup four times — in 2011 in Germany, 2015 in Canada, 2019 in France and the 2023 edition starting later this month in Australia and New Zealand. In 2019, she was awarded the Best FIFA Women's Player of the Year and received the Golden Ball. She also took home the Golden Boot as the top scorer, having made six goals.

Off the field, Rapinoe has been an outspoken and fierce advocate for LGBTQ+ rights ever since she publicly came out as gay in 2012, becoming the first female member of the U.S. national team to do so.

In 2016, Rapinoe took a knee during the national anthem in solidarity with NFL player Colin Kaepernick in his protest against police brutality and racial injustice.

Four years later, she was involved in a class action lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation, accusing it general discrimination and unequal play. In a settlement announced early last year, U.S. Soccer agreed to pay $22 million in back pay to the U.S. Women's National Soccer team.

In 2022, Rapinoe received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Biden — becoming the first soccer player to receive such an honor.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Juliana Kim
Juliana Kim is a weekend reporter for Digital News, where she adds context to the news of the day and brings her enterprise skills to NPR's signature journalism.