Iconic Rapinoe makes USA team farewell against Banyana

‘It has been an unbelievable ride,’ said the 38 year-old striker.

Megan Rapinoe, who championed social justice and fought for women’s equal pay in a 17-year international career, will play her final match for the United States on Sunday against Banyana Banyana.

The 38-year-old striker has scored 63 goals in 202 appearances for the national team entering her farewell match at Chicago, having helped the US win titles at the 2015 and 2019 Women’s World Cups and the 2012 London Olympics.

“People may think that my career coming to an end would bring sadness, but when I think back on the past 30-plus years of playing this game, my overriding emotions are joy and gratitude,” Rapinoe said.

“It has been an unbelievable ride. It will be special to have this one last opportunity to play for my country in front of our incredible fans and get the chance to thank my teammates and everyone who has had an impact on me as a person and player over the years.”

An LGBTQ advocate

An advocate for LGBTQ rights who has lent her voice to an array of US social justice issues, Rapinoe was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor, by President Joe Biden last year.

Rapinoe, FIFA’s 2019 Women’s Player of the Year, also was among the leaders of the US women’s successful fight with US Soccer for equal pay and conditions with the men’s squad.

Rapinoe, who announced her plans to retire in July, will finish the National Women’s Soccer League season with her club team, OL Reign, which plans a tribute match to Rapinoe in its October 6 regular season home finale.

A ceremony to honor Rapinoe will be conducted before Sunday’s kickoff at Soldier Field in tribute to her 200th career cap, which came against Wales in July at San Jose, California.

After her US debut, Rapinoe missed the 2007 and 2008 seasons due to injury but returned in 2009 and played in four Women’s World Cups, the last earlier this year at New Zealand and Australia, where she missed a penalty shot in a shootout loss to Sweden in the round of 16.

In 11 seasons with the Reign, Rapinoe helped the team reach the NWSL finals twice, losing to Kansas City in 2014 and 2015.

The Americans blanked South Africa 3-0 at Cincinnati on Thursday in the farewell match for long-time US midfielder Julie Ertz, a teammate of Rapinoe on the 2015 and 2019 Women’s World Cup champion squads.