The stakes are sky-high for Megan Rapinoe as she plays the final match of her career in the NWSL Championship on Saturday but the two-time Women’s World Cup winner said she will walk off the pitch with a smile on her face no matter the outcome.
With an Olympic gold, the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom and the 2019 Ballon d’Or, there are few accolades that the charismatic figurehead of American soccer has failed to collect across her career.
But Saturday’s showdown between Gotham FC and her OL Reign gives Rapinoe one last chance to claim the National Women’s Soccer League championship after years of thwarted attempts, with the team she has been a part of since its inception.
The 38-year-old forward completed the last training session of her career with Reign on Friday and said she was trying to keep “as much of the same routine as possible”.
“It’s really unique that you get to a championship game ever in your career. So these aren’t moments that you want to let slip by,” she told reporters.
“This is something that for all of us, this will be a memory that we have for a lifetime.”
The match at San Diego’s Snapdragon Stadium represents a changing of the guard for both teams, who are each seeking their first championship title in the top-flight American league.
New York and New Jersey’s Gotham FC bid farewell to defender Ali Krieger, a beloved fan favourite who won the World Cup alongside Rapinoe in 2015 and 2019.
“This is the ending of something incredible for both of them,” said Reign captain Lu Barnes. “And I think the legacy that they’ve left will be here forever.”
Both players leave behind an NWSL that is far stronger today than when they joined a decade ago, when an average of only a few thousand fans attended games and few were aired on television.
The league announced a four-year media deal this week with ESPN, CBS, Prime Sports and Scripps’ ION network worth a reported record $60 million a year.
Rapinoe’s Seattle farewell match last month averaged 683,000 viewers on CBS, an NWSL regular-season record.
“This league was insane this year. It was, you know, so much fun to watch and be a part of,” said Rapinoe. “I feel like I get to walk away just, you know, smiling no matter what.”
- Mexican Open: Second-seeded Holger Rune eases past American Michael Mmoh
- Argentina to play exhibition against Costa Rica instead of Nigeria in Los Angeles on March 26
- A low-ranked American tennis player banned after testing positive for marijuana at a tournament
- Man Utd boss Ten Hag doesn’t want Ratcliffe vote of confidence
- Bundesliga boss says rejection of investor deal ‘bad for the league’