Megan Rapinoe said her decision to announce her retirement before the Women’s World Cup will help the U.S. team better focus on its attempt to win a third straight world championship.
Rapinoe announced last weekend that she will retire from competitive soccer at the end of the current season. Speaking to media in Auckland on Wednesday and sporting a new, blue hairstyle, Rapinoe said questions of retirement would have followed her and the USWNT through the World Cup had she not announced her plans before the tournament started.
"Obviously I’m 38 years old, I’m not going to be playing forever and it just always feels weird for me to have something settled and feel at peace and to not answer a question honestly," Rapinoe said. "I kind of wanted to have that for myself.
"I think it allows me to focus a lot more, allows the team to focus a lot more. We don’t have to get questions every time, every single game. It’s just kind of out there and I can just really enjoy it and focus on trying to win the tournament."
Megan Rapinoe speaks to media during the USWNT training session ahead of the FIFA Womens World Cup football at Bay City Park, Browns Bay on July 12, 2023 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Fiona Goodall - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
Rapinoe has two World Cup winners' medals and wants another. At the same time, she said, she wants to inspire young New Zealand women to play soccer.
"I think especially those of us who have been around for a long time, (it) certainly wasn’t like this for all the World Cups that we’ve been a part of our entire career," she said. "I think we can really see and feel the game growing and world changing around us.
"I know what that meant for me to be able to see Mia Hamm up close or see Brandi Chastain up close when I was younger — so hopefully it’s an inspiration to them, but I think it’s also an inspiration to us as well."
Rapinoe praised the training facilities the U.S. team has experienced since arriving in Auckland and said the cold, wet weather was not a concern.
"I’m from Seattle so I feel literally right at home," she said. "I don’t mind it too much. "It’d be one thing if we were in the tundra but it’s pretty temperate so maybe a long sleeve but I don’t even know if we’ll need to break the gloves out. I’d honestly rather have this than scorching heat. I just tend to melt and don’t do very well in the heat."
As for her hair, Rapinoe said she has brought a range of colors to New Zealand and fans can expect regular changes.