American soccer star Abby Wambach will play her last national-team game Wednesday, an exhibition match against China. The game marks Wambach’s retirement and the last match of the 2015 U.S. women’s World Cup victory tour.
Wambach’s achievements are many, and her unique combination of talents makes her one of the best soccer players of all time.
Originally from Rochester, New York, Abby started playing soccer as soon as she could walk—and the accolades quickly followed. Wooed by the University of Florida after high school, she soon became their all-time leading scorer and MVP.
In 2001, she was recruited to the U.S. women’s national team, and in 2002 she was the second overall draft pick for the Women’s United Soccer Association.
On June 20, 2013 she became the world’s all-time leading scorer and still maintains that record, having scored 184 goals in international play (more than any other player—man or woman). Over the course of her career, she’s made it clear that she’ll hit the ball down the field with any part of her body necessary—foot, head, ear, hip or back.
Wambach is known for being tough as nails on the field. In a 2010 World Cup qualifying match, for instance, she collided with another player and had her head stapled on the sideline so that she could remain in the game. She is unforgiving in her aggressive, powerful style of play and passion for the game, but she’s also a light-hearted comedian—with goal-celebration dances to prove it.
In her personal life, she has paved the way for more acceptance of diversity in professional sports by remaining visible as a lesbian soccer player. After the U.S. 2015 World Cup victory, she gave us the kiss seen around the world as her wife congratulated her in the stands of B.C. Place Stadium in Vancouver, Canada.
“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,” Wambach said in a statement. “It’s been an amazing, wonderful ride and I can’t wait to see what the next chapter of my life brings.”
She is a pioneer, a feminist hero, and proof that if you use your head, heart and everything else you’ve got—anything is possible.
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