NEW YORK: The stakes are high for Megan Rapinoe as she plays the final match of her NWSL Championship career on Saturday, but the two-time Women’s World Cup winner said she will leave the court with a smile on her face . matters the result.
With an Olympic gold medal, the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom and the 2019 Ballon d’Or, there are few accolades that the charismatic figurehead of American football has failed to collect during his career.
But Saturday’s showdown between Gotham FC and its OL Reign gives Rapinoe one last chance to win the National Women’s Soccer League championship after years of thwarted attempts, with the team she has been a part of since its inception.
The 38-year-old forward completed the final training session of her career with Reign on Friday and said she tries to keep “as much of the same routine as possible.”
“It’s really unique that you get to go to a championship game in your career, so these are not moments you want to pass up,” she told reporters.
“It’s something that, for all of us, will be a memory that we will keep for the rest of our lives.”
The match at Snapdragon Stadium in San Diego represents a changing of the guard for both teams, who are each seeking their first championship title in the American league’s elite.
Gotham FC of New York and New Jersey bid farewell to defender Ali Krieger, a fan favorite who won the World Cup alongside Rapinoe in 2015 and 2019.
“This is the end of something incredible for both of them,” Reign captain Lu Barnes said. “And I think the legacy they left will be there forever.”
Both players leave behind a much stronger NWSL today than when they joined a decade ago, when on average only a few thousand fans attended matches and few of them were broadcast on the television.
The league this week announced a four-year media deal with ESPN, CBS, Prime Sports and Scripps’ ION Network worth a record $60 million per year.
Rapinoe’s farewell match in Seattle last month averaged 683,000 viewers on CBS, a record for the NWSL regular season.
“This league was crazy this year. It was, you know, so much fun to watch and be a part of,” Rapinoe said. “I feel like I can walk away, you know, smiling no matter what.”