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Abby Wambach To Retire After U.S. Plays China


OK, there may be countries that love soccer more than the United States. But no one has scored more goals in international games than an American. Her name is Abby Wambach, and she has now decided to retire. Wambach capped her career this summer, when the U.S. national team won the Women's World Cup. That tournament was played on artificial turf. Men don't have to play on that surface, something Wambach points out. Tonight is her last match as a pro player and the last game of her World Cup Victory Tour. She had thought about waiting until after the tour to announce she's retiring.

ABBY WAMBACH: I didn't want this victory tour to be a farewell-to-Abby tour. But after speaking with my agent and my teammates, they thought that it would be - it'd be really meaningful for the fans to be able to get to say their goodbyes too.

GREENE: Can you look back over your 15 years and tell me if women's soccer has changed?

WAMBACH: Women's soccer has definitely changed over the last 15 years for sure. When I first got here, you know, there was a lot of attention. Mia Hamm was still, you know, buzzing in the ears of every 10-year-old girl. And for me to do more and to push the sport forward even more than they did, it really is special.

GREENE: Because, you know, at the World Cup last year, I, you know, was really struck by the legal action that you and the team took - I mean, claiming gender discrimination over the fact that you were playing on artificial turf in that tournament. And that's something that men never have to do. And I wondered whether that was a sign that, you know, there hasn't been as much progress as you'd like.

WAMBACH: Right. And to be fair, I think that that's not an uncommon question that I get now or thought. And that's why we were suing FIFA. It felt like we were taking steps back. And the reason why we dropped the lawsuit is because FIFA was going to slow-play it.

GREENE: You didn't drop the case because you didn't believe this was important. You think it's a fight...

WAMBACH: Correct.

GREENE: Worth having. OK.

WAMBACH: We dropped the case because there was no way we were going to be able to win anything. No decision would have been made until after the World Cup was over.

GREENE: But how should we interpret that? I mean, does that mean that there's a lot of progress that needs to be made?

WAMBACH: Well, I think clearly FIFA has made it known that there's something not right going on inside their walls. They've got so much corruption, and their structure is going to be changing so much. I don't think that we can judge what they did on anything, to be fair. I think that right now, we saw real change, real positive growth in women's soccer, you know, in the United States. It was - 31 million people watched that game. And it's the most that's ever been watched by men or women playing the game that we love.

GREENE: This is your World Cup championship game.

WAMBACH: Yeah. I mean, to me it's like, hey, sponsors, hey, corporate America, hey, people, did you hear what I just said? Like, more than the men's team - ever. It's frustrating because we don't, as players, have - we're not the ones that are making the decisions on what stadiums we play in. That's not our job. Our job is to go on the field and play.

GREENE: Well, before I let you go, Abby Wambach, I just want to ask you about one moment in your 15-year career. And it was 2013, when you set the record for more goals in international games than anyone. And I mean man or woman. What was that moment like?

WAMBACH: It was surreal, you know, I mean, to be a part of that moment. I couldn't believe my teammates were, like, basically force-feeding me the ball. And I got on the end of a few opportunities. And my family was all there. So it was an amazing experience - and to be able to have had with my teammates on the field made it even sweeter.

GREENE: Abby Wambach, congratulations. Thanks a lot.

WAMBACH: Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.