Abby Wambach, the all-time leading U.S. goal-scorer in both World Cup and Olympic competition, announced her retirement from soccer in October, and tonight she will play her final game.
The Nike-sponsored Wambach will lead the U.S. Women’s National Team in an exhibition game at the Superdome in New Orleans against China on Wednesday night as part of a 10-game victory tour celebrating the Women’s World Cup championship.
“After much deliberation and talking with my friends, family, teammates and our coaching staff, I’ve decided to finally bring my soccer career to an end,” Wambach said in her retirement statement. “While we still have more work to do for women’s soccer, after bringing the World Cup back to the United States this summer, I’m feeling extremely optimistic about the future of our sport. It’s been an amazing, wonderful ride, and I can’t wait to see what the next chapter of my life brings.”
In her newest Gatorade ad, Wambach, in Nike sneakers, tearfully clears out her locker and says, “I want to leave a legacy where the ball keeps rolling, where the next generation accomplishes things so great that I am no longer remembered. … The day I’m forgotten is the day we succeed.”
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The athlete has a list of career highlights, including 184 goals scored in international play — the most by any player, male or female — becoming FIFA’s Women’s World Player of the Year in 2012, winning Olympic gold in 2004 and 2012 and taking home the 2015 World Cup trophy this summer.
It’s clear that the team’s captain is a leader both on and off the field, who made an impact not only on her teammates but on a nation. In a tribute video by Nike Soccer, the U.S. Women’s National Team speaks out, in between many tears, on how Abby Wambach changed the game of soccer.
“I’ll be looking back, and it won’t just be the times on the field that I remember, it’s going to be everything that I learned from you off the field that made me a better person,” said U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo in the clip.
Forward Sydney Leroux shared a moving anecdote, saying, “She believed in people when they didn’t believe in themselves. Because that’s what she does.”
“The most exciting moment as a fan of soccer, as a coach of soccer, was the goal you scored in 2011. Probably one of the most exciting moments in soccer. It captured a nation,” said Jill Ellis, current USWNT head coach. The goal she referred to in the video came during the 122nd minute of the quarterfinal match against Brazil in the 2011 World Cup. Wambach headed the ball to tie the game in stoppage time and went on to win in penalty kicks. Watch the goal below.
Before she takes the pitch for her last-ever soccer match, watch the emotional Nike tribute video.