Feature image via Getty
History will be made at Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans tonight. The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team (USWNT) will take on China as the last game on their Victory Tour after winning the FIFA Women’s World Cup in July.
But as the USWNT looks to finish its Victory Tour, a soccer legend will be bidding her final farewell. Abby Wambach will step onto the field for the last time wearing No. 20 for the U.S. Women’s National Team.
Wambach has been a fixture in the world of women’s soccer for nearly 15 years. She’s a two-time Olympic gold medalist and the 2012 FIFA World Player of the Year. Oh — and as of this year — a World Cup Champion.
— Alex Goldschmidt (@alexandergold) July 6, 2015
Wambach began her career on the USWNT in 2001, two years after the USA won its second Women’s World Cup. She played alongside stars like Julie Foudy (who now announces USWNT games and is very vocal on Twitter about her dislike for FIFA) and Mia Hamm (whose record for most international goals Wambach surpassed in 2013).
Wambach started her career alongside her heroes (growing up, she had a signed poster of Hamm); similarly, younger players like Alex Morgan and Morgan Brian, who were called up to the USWNT during Wambach’s career, have expressed how much playing alongside Abby meant to them.
In her career, Wambach has racked up 254 appearances at the international level for the United States. Tonight will make that 255. She has also scored 184 goals, the most of any man or woman in the world. (For the record, 77 of those were just with her head. That means just Abby Wambach’s noggin could hold the record for 7th most goals in USWNT history.)
One of the most memorable Wambach scores came against Brazil during the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup quarterfinal. The bottom line is that she scored the tying goal for the U.S. in the 122nd minute, and the team went on to win the game 5-3 on penalty kicks. But to get the full effect, I highly recommend watching:
One of the most admirable characteristics Wambach possesses is her willingness to let her body be on the line for the good of the team. I’ll always remember the World Cup qualifier game in 2010 against Mexico (which, I’ll admit, I didn’t see live, but watched later online). In an attempt to go up for a header, she and a Mexican player collided at full force. Both fell to the ground immediately. It was stoppage time and the U.S. was trailing 2-1. Abby Wambach doesn’t just let a little (OK, a lot of) blood stop her. Right on the field, she allowed the medical staff to literally staple her head back together so she could keep playing. There’s video, if you’re into it, but warning: It’s a lot. (Amazing and badass, but a lot.)
Her career is winding down from those iconic moments, but she will likely be looking for that 185th goal to add to her resume tonight. No matter what happens, she will go down as the G.O.A.T. — or the greatest of all time — an acronym and hashtag fans and players alike have recently embraced on Twitter, along with the hashtags promoted by U.S. Soccer: #ThanksAbby and #OnlyOneAbby.
Although Wambach admits she never “came out” because she was never truly “in,” her impact on the LGBTQ community cannot be overlooked. The fact that an openly gay woman who kissed her wife on live TV after this year’s World Cup championship holds the record for most international goals scored is truly inspiring.
You can catch tonight’s game, which starts 8:00 p.m. on Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports GO.
We’ll miss you, Abby. You are — and will continue to be — a legend.