Abby Wambach Hangs Up Her Cleats, We Cry Forever

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.

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.


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Kelly has written 3 articles for us.

21 Comments

  1. She’s already using her influence to drive forward the conversation about gender-based pay inequity in all areas, not just sports. Which is pretty great! Welcome to the feminist club, Abby! Also, she’s from my city and the city is throwing her a huge, free, city-wide “fan celebration” event tomorrow. Apparently, she’s going to be there in person!

  2. I was all ready to join in the celebration of Abby Wambach’s career…to get all nostalgic about some of the greatest goals of her career…and then I read this quote from her recent interview with Bill Simmons:

    “He hasn’t really focused enough attention on the youth programs. Although he says he has, I don’t think that he has. I also believe that the way that he has changed and brought in a bunch of these foreign guys is just not something that I believe in wholeheartedly.”

    To hear a sports hero embrace Trump-like xenophobia…is terribly disheartening. It takes the wind out of my sails…

    • She’s talking specifically about Klinsmanns leadership and criticizing his management of youth programs. Klinsmann has an unusual position as he is not just men’s coach but also the technical director responsable for managing youth programs. She’s hardly the first person to suggest that he relies too heavily on recruiting dual nationals who were trained by other countries and investing too little in developing talent in the US youth program.

      We can disagree and argue that the players are Americans and have a right to decide what nation to represent, even if they have represented another country as a youth player and we should play the best players no matter where they grew up. Maybe they are truly proud to represent the US, maybe it was just the team where they would have a better chance of getting to actually play, maybe it doesn’t even matter. But comparing the comment to Donald Trump is absurd and ignores the context of the debate.

      • I’m glad to address the entirety of Wambach’s comments about Klinsmann, but whether I agree or disagree with her about whether Klinsmann’s managed youth programs well (he has) or whether he deserves to stay on as coach of the National Team (he doesn’t), my criticism still remains. Her use of the xenophobic euphemism,”foreign guys” is offensive..in context, out of context, whatever…it is offensive. Period.

        The dual nationals conversation has always been a bit dogwhistle-y but “foreign guys?!” It’s like the Drudge siren of offensive rhetoric.

        And Norwegian-born USMNT midfielder Mix Diskerud agrees.

        (And please believe, if someone else had made this comment about “foreigners” on the USWNT..questioning the presence of Canadian, Sydney Leroux, or why a Swede was allowed to coach the team for so long…Abby Wambach would be the FIRST person criticizing them. It’s hypocritical for her to throw any shade at the USMNT.)

        Finally, you bristle at my comparison of Wambach’s comment to Trump but Trump first jumps on the political scene in 2008 by making this exact “foreign guys” critique of the President of the United States. It’s othering and offensive and so far beneath Wambach’s stature that she should apologize.

  3. What do y’all think of her “forget me” thing?

    Because on one hand, I see her point–she shouldn’t be a stopping point for the USWNT and women’s soccer overall, but rather we want others to rise and surpass her, much like she did for Mia Hamm.

    But like, come on, Abby. You are a legend. You are an inspiration. Men’s hockey hasn’t stopped advancing since Wayne Gretsky retired. We still remember and honor him. I don’t see why we have to forget you, Abby, for women’s soccer to keep moving forward and growing greater. And that’s not even to point out how much it means to me to see a queer athlete who is the greatest at what they do. As a former high school athlete and queer college athlete and current queer trans sort-of, low-stakes athlete, it really fucking matters to me to see queer people able to succeed in sports because sports weren’t always a place where I saw queer success, that I could imagine queer success. (and like that goes for the whole USWNT, tbh)

    And just it means SO MUCH to me that there’s a female athlete that people are honoring? That is legendary? I’m just so used to male athletes solely having the spotlight, and for a sport in the US to have a woman at its face seems fairly unprecedented.

  4. Lord knows I appreciate Abby but she is not the greatest woso player of all time. That title should be co-owned by Marta, Miyama, Sinclair and hopefully Kim Little in the near future. She is the most prolific goal scorer, but even in her prime imho she peaked at number 10 in terms of all around skill. The reason she gets more shine is the state of women’s soccer makes it so that country trumps club by a country mile. That being said, she is a national team legend and I’ll always appreciate her contributions on the field.

      • What in my comment makes you think that I am unaware of that? Advances in women’s sports, injury management, prevention and general training make it so that this generation of players overall both tactically and physically is better than their predecessors, and the next generation will be even better.

  5. I was not there and nobody I know that works or frequents Bourbon Street was out last night either, but my local sportscaster anchor person got to drop the soccer knowledge and explain the reasons Wabach is a living legend.
    He seemed to be nerding out a bit, it was kind of adorable.

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