Longtime U.S. Women’s National Team captain Megan Rapinoe has played her final match with the team.
Rapinoe made her final international appearance in a friendly match against South Africa at Chicago’s Soldier Field on Sunday, which the U.S. won 2-0. She did not score and just missed a penalty kick before being subbed out to cheers from the 25,000 fans in attendance and the embrace of several teammates in the 53rd minute as she gave her captain’s armband to teammate Lindsay Horan.
“A global icon exits the stage for one final time,” broadcaster Luke Wileman said as Rapinoe made her way to the U.S. sideline. “An Olympic gold medalist and a two-time World Cup winner who has used her platform to make an impact far beyond the pitch and far beyond this country. She’s changed this team, she’s changed this game, and she’s changed women’s sport forever in a U.S. career that lasted more than 17 years.”
The 38-year-old made her professional soccer debut with the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) in July 2006 but missed the next two years with ACL injuries. She returned to help the U.S. reach the championship match of the 2009 Algarve Cup and went on to play in four world cups, winning two championships and a gold medal at the 2012 Olympics in London.
Rapinoe cemented her on-the-field legacy by helping the U.S. defeat Brazil in penalty kicks at the 2011 World Cup and now ends her career among the USWNT career leaders in goals and assists.
After Sunday’s match, she addressed the crowd with a speech.
“I just want to say thank you,” Rapinoe began. “I feel like I’ve been able to grow up in front of all of you. We’re in Chicago, but there’s so many fans around the country and around the world. When I think about what it means to me to represent not only this team but our country, it’s just that. We’re a little snapshot of all of you.”
“I think this team has always taken so much pride in that fact,” she continued. “… It has been such an honor to be able to wear this shirt, to play with all these amazing players, and to just live out my childhood dream casually in front of the world. Thank you so much for always loving on us and supporting on us, chanting all the things that we say, and always supporting us and all of the things that we care about.”
“… It has just been my honor to represent you guys, to play for so long, to be so successful, and it’s going to be my honor to be an alumni [sic] of this team and watch this team continue to be as successful as we have been and even more,” she concluded.
Rapinoe has become a huge influence off the field as well. Her social advocacy led her to become the first soccer player awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom last year.
She will still play the remainder of the season with her Seattle-based National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) team, OL Reign, before retiring for good. OL Reiogn has three regular-season matches left and wraps up its schedule on October 15.