U.S. women's national soccer team star Megan Rapinoe is getting the ball rolling on her retirement.
The Olympian, one of the most renowned female soccer players of all time, announced July 8 that she plans to retire from professional soccer after the end of the 2023 National Women's Soccer League season this fall.
"It is with a deep sense of peace & gratitude that I have decided this will be my final season playing this beautiful game," Rapinoe, 38, wrote on Instagram, alongside a pic of herself as a child. "I never could have imagined the ways in which soccer would shape & change my life forever, but by the look on this little girl's face, she knew all along."
The athlete's fiancée, fellow Olympian and retired WNBA legend Sue Bird expressed her support for her partner, commenting, "Congrats, baby!! That little girl is going to continue to do so much good in this world (but she sure did kill it on the field). I love you."
Rapinoe, a 11-year league veteran and a winger for the OL Reign team, will play her final regular-season match at Seattle's Lumen Field on Oct. 6 against the Washington Spirit, ESPN reported. Before that, she will play with two-time defending champion USWNT in the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup this summer in New Zealand and Australia.
"I've been able to have such an incredible career, and this game has brought me all over the world and allowed me to meet so many amazing people," Rapinoe said in a statement posted on the U.S. Soccer website. "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."
She continued, "To be able to play one last World Cup and one last NWSL season and go out on my own terms is incredibly special."
Rapinoe has played in 17 World Cup matches as well as in 14 Olympic matches. She earned 199 caps and a 2012 Olympic gold medal, and scored World Cup victories in 2015 and 2019, ESPN reported. In 2019, she was honored as the Best FIFA Women's Player of the Year and also won the Golden Ball as the best player in the World Cup. During the championship, her "are you not entertained?" gesture on the field went viral.
In 2021, President Joe Biden presented Rapinoe with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, making her the first soccer player to receive the nation's highest civilian honor.
In her statement to U.S. Soccer, the California native also wrote, "I want to thank my family for being by my side all these years. Thanks to all my teammates and coaches all the way back to my first days in Redding, on to college at the University of Portland and of course thanks to U.S. Soccer, the Seattle Reign and especially Sue, for everything. I will forever cherish the friendships and support over the years in this game, and I am beyond excited for one last ride with the National Team and the Reign."