Megan Rapinoe: THE USWNT icon reaches 200 caps
It’s hard to sum up all the accomplishments and swagger of the heart and soul of the USWNT in one piece. Megan Rapinoe is one of the most famous athletes in the world with one of the greatest careers of all time. A champion on and off the field, her confident personality is backed up by her skills on the pitch. Here’s how she got to her 200th USWNT cap.
Before The Fame
Megan Anna Rapinoe was born in Redding, California along with her twin sister Rachel on July 5th, 1985. She grew up in California along with five other siblings. Rapinoe has often talked about her older brother’s struggle with drugs and how soccer was an escape for them to get away from the world where they grew up.
From 2002 to 2005, Rapinoe played for Elk Grove Pride in the Women's Premier Soccer League along with her sister. Her family commuted two-and-a-half hours from her hometown to play with the team, proving her dedication to soccer day in and day out. During the US Youth Soccer National Championships, she scored an equalizer goal in the 18th minute to tie the game 1–1 against the Peachtree City Lazers. Rapinoe has clearly had an impact on every team she has played on from a young age.
Rapinoe, alongside her twin, went to the University of Portland to play out their college soccer careers. She ultimately didn’t end up playing her first year because she was called into the U-19 World Cup where the United States placed third. When she returned and started playing for Portland, she was an instant superstar. In her sixty appearances with the Portland Pilots, she scored thirty goals and had 28 assists.
As a freshman, Rapinoe helped the Pilots to an undefeated season and the NCAA Division I Women's Soccer Championship. During the College Cup quarterfinal against Notre Dame, she scored twice and served one assist. In the College Cup final against UCLA, she scored one goal and served an assist helping the Pilots win the National Championship. That year, she also scored seven game-winning goals, proving that she has always been a clutch player.
Despite her ACL injury during her Sophomore season, she was one of four Portland players in the program's history, including Christine Sinclair, Tiffeny Milbrett, and Shannon MacMillan, to score 25 goals and 15 assists in two seasons. Although her college career was shorted by a second ACL later on in her career, she made a long-lasting impact on the Portland Pilots. Rapinoe's 88-point career, including 30 goals and 28 assists, ranks tenth in the school's history despite her playing only 60 games
The Club Life
After graduation, Rapinoe was selected by the Chicago Red Stars as the second overall pick in the first-ever draft for the Women’s Professional Soccer League, or WPS. She performed well for the Red Stars and for the Philadelphia Independence, the expansion team she signed with after her time with Chicago. In addition to club play, Rapinoe garnered the attention of the national team.
Rapinoe traveled to Australia for a short period of time, spending time with Sydney FC as a guest player before returning to the States. When she was back she played for the Seattle Sounders Women with lots of her USWNT teammates. This would be the beginning of Rapinoe’s long stint in Seattle even if she didn’t know it yet.
Rapinoe was acquired by the Seattle Reign in the newly formed NWSL where she would spend the next eleven years. She’s been with them through their three shield wins and is one of just ten players to make one appearance in every NWSL season and one of five to have been with the same club that entire time. She has the most goals for the club with 47 total, in addition to 21 assists. Well-known for her cool penalty kicks, she’s tied for most in the league with 21 converted penalties. Rapinoe will be chasing after that ever-elusive NWSL championship with the Reign this year as it’s about the only trophy she doesn’t have.
Unfortunately, Rapinoe tore her ACL training for the victory games. At thirty years old with her third ACL tear and one World Cup under her belt, no one would’ve held it against her if she decided to walk away from the game. But that’s not who Megan Rapinoe is, and she fought her way back and made the 2019 World Cup roster.
An American Icon
Megan was in and out of national team camps starting in 2006 and made her USWNT debut in July of 2006 against Ireland. But, she suffered two ACL injuries and missed out on the 2007 Olympics and 2008 World Cup. However, her stardom would begin with her first World Cup call-up in 2011. She started eight matches and scored four goals with two assists. Her breakthrough moment was serving in the assist for the Abby Wambach header that got them through the 2011 quarter-finals against Brazil. Although they didn’t come home with the trophy that year, Rapinoe was on everyone’s mind as she headed back to the States to play for Magic Jack, before the WPS folded in 2011.
Rapinoe was instrumental in the 2012 Olympic victory for the United States. She scored three goals in the 2012 Olympic games, including one from a corner kick. She’s the only player, men’s or women’s to have ever scored off a corner kick in the Olympic games. Her two equalizing goals against Canada in the semi-finals pushed them into extra time where the United States would be victorious from penalties to get themselves to the finals. They took home the gold that year, and 2012 ended up being a career-high for Rapinoe in terms of national team goals as she scored 12.
Speaking of trophies, after coming off the high of the 2012 Olympics, Rapinoe was called into the 2015 World Cup squad. She scored the first goal for the United States in their opening group match against Australia, kicking off the tournament on a high note. She made the shortlist for the golden ball but didn’t manage to nab the award quite yet. But she was named to the All-Star Squad for the tournament, one that ended in her first World Cup victory.
"So fantastic, we know what she's capable of and we know that she's gonna be responsible for our team, for her performance, for the results. We're lucky to have her on the team. She stepped up big for us." said former national team teammate Tobin Heath on Rapinoe.
She would go on to win both the Golden Ball and Golden Boot at her third World Cup and second World Cup trophy in 2019. She became truly a worldwide sensation and household name after her triumphs with the States in that tournament. She scored six goals for them, including the penalty heard round the world in the final match against the Netherlands to put them ahead in the second half before Rose Lavelle sealed the victory with another goal.
Off The Field
Rapinoe, who announced her plans to retire after the 2023 NWSL season concludes, is so much more than what she does on the field. In her retirement, there is no doubt that her off-the-field activism and accolades will continue to rack up.
It would be a disservice to talk about Megan Rapinoe’s career without mentioning her accolades off the field of which there are many. She’s the only soccer player to have ever been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is the highest honor a citizen can earn in the United States. A strong voice in the equal pay fight, Rapinoe is vocal about the value of women’s sports and fighting for better resources. As an openly gay athlete, Rapinoe has been an advocate for the LGBTQ community, speaking out in support of trans athletes and advocating for more queer visibility in sports. She’s engaged to be married to US basketball legend Sue Bird, and her memoir One Life is set to become a scripted TV series.
Whether you know her as the first openly gay female athlete to feature in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue, or as the 2019 Ballon d'Or Féminin winner, Megan Rapinoe is a soccer icon. She’s a legend in the game and carries the party with her to every match. Even in her new role as a second-half finisher, there is still a big performance to be expected from Rapinoe in her fourth World Cup this summer.