US forward Megan Rapinoe to retire after current season

Megan Rapinoe of the US announces her retirement during a press conference at PayPal Park in San Jose, California on July 8 2023.
Megan Rapinoe of the US announces her retirement during a press conference at PayPal Park in San Jose, California on July 8 2023.
Image: Brad Smith/USSF/Getty Images for USSF

US forward Megan Rapinoe will retire after this season, the 38-year-old said on Saturday, days before she leaves for the Women's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

The charismatic veteran will compete in her fourth World Cup when the tournament kicks off on July 20, and said she will hang up her cleats after completing her National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) season.

“I could have just never imagined where this beautiful game would have taken me,” said Rapinoe, who is the oldest player on one of the most inexperienced squads the US have produced.

“I feel so honoured to be able to have represented this country and this federation for so many years. It's truly been the greatest thing I've ever done.”

Arguably the most recognisable figure in all of American soccer, Rapinoe earned the Golden Boot for her heroics in the 2019 World Cup, the same year she helped to kick-start her team's pay equity fights against their own federation.

Speaking to reporters in her home state of California, Rapinoe said she had known for about a year that this would be the point at which she would be ready to retire.

“I just want to be able to soak in every moment and share it with teammates and friends and family, and with the rest of the world. And I'm just really grateful to be able to do it in this way,” the 2019 Ballon d'Or winner said.

“I feel grateful I'm here and that I have the trust of this team and that my body has held up this long to do this.”

The US are gunning for an unprecedented third consecutive title at the World Cup. They play Wales in a farewell warm-up match on Sunday in San Jose, California.

"[There's] no distraction at hand because I know what it is to lose in a World Cup final, and I certainly don't want to do that again,” said Rapinoe. “So the best way that I could possibly go out is winning.”

Rapinoe has eased into the role of a substitute in the four years since her star turn in France and credited her fiancée, retired Women's National Basketball Association great Sue Bird, with helping her to take the next step off the pitch.

An advocate on an array of social issues, Rapinoe famously sparred with former US President Donald Trump during the 2019 World Cup and earned a public rebuke from US Soccer when she knelt during the playing of the national anthem in 2016 in solidarity with NFL player Colin Kaepernick.

“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.”

Her club, OL Reign, where she has spent the entirety of her career in the NWSL, will host a celebration of her on October 6.

Rapinoe joined OL Reign in their inaugural season and holds the team record for most career goals (48) and assists (25).

The US kick off their World Cup campaign on July 22 against Vietnam.