Lauren Holiday retires from USWNT after Women’s World Cup heroics
VANCOUVER, British Columbia —
United States women’s national team veteran Lauren Holiday is celebrating her Women’s World Cup triumph in the best possible way: She’s going out on top.
Holiday, 27, will retire from the U.S. women’s national team after 10 years on the job. The former UCLA Bruin and reigning U.S. Soccer Female Athlete of the Year confirmed to Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl that after a decade of holding down the midfield for two Olympic gold medals and the 2015 World Cup trophy, it’s time to put family first.
A (happy) tearful Lauren Holiday just confirmed she's retiring from USWNT at 27. Says has given last 10 years to national team. Family now.
— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) July 7, 2015
Holiday is the first player to announce her plans in the wake of Sunday’s historic Women’s World Cup win for the U.S., marking the third time the Americans have won the title and the first time since 1999. But will she be the last?
All-time leading international goalscorer Abby Wambach has yet to decide what she’ll do now that her legacy has been properly garnished with a World Cup title. At 35 years old, Wambach said her career could last "a few more days" or another year. But it remains to be seen if Wambach will stick with the U.S. squad as it qualifies for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Meanwhile, Christie Rampone, at 40, may be also retire, while 37-year-old Shannon Boxx is also likely to step away ahead of the 2016 Olympic preparation. Holiday’s decision sheds light on the kind of roster turnover that the U.S. women’s national team faces — and that could be a welcome situation for coach Jill Ellis, who must look at bringing in younger talent. Julie Johnston, 23, and Morgan Brian, 22, were standouts during this World Cup.
Holiday, however, didn’t hesitate to call the World Cup victory a great time to move on. She said she will continue to play for FC Kansas City of the National Women’s Soccer League. It was unclear whether Holiday will take part in the U.S. women’s national team’s victory tour.
The 10-match series will lead the World Cup winners on a series of friendlies around the U.S. before the end of the year. So far, matches have been scheduled for Aug. 16 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh and on Aug. 19 at Finley Stadium in Chattanooga, both against Costa Rica. More than 30,000 tickets have been sold for Pittsburgh and the Tennessee match is already sold out.
Though her coaches and teammates still refer to her by her maiden name "Cheney," Holiday married New Orleans Pelicans star Jrue Holiday in 2013, four years after they met at UCLA. During the Women’s World Cup run, Holiday was a big supporter of his wife’s, posting on his Instagram account that he has mad love for the Indiana native and confessing that she’s the best athlete in the family.
And, it’s fitting that Holiday’s announcement came on the couple’s second anniversary. They married on July 7, 2013.
On the pitch, it’s been tough to deny the prowess that Holiday has shown over the course of her career. Holiday and Women’s World Cup star Carli Lloyd were paired together for the entire run in Canada. While Lloyd’s move to attacking mode sparked the U.S. offense, Holiday proved to be a beast, too.
With the five-midfielder lineup, Lloyd was also able to roam with greater freedom and wound up punishing Japan for the goal that put the U.S. up 3-0 just 13 minutes en route to the 5-2 win in the final Sunday at BC Place. After Japan defender failed to clear a header out of danger, a streaking Holiday booted a line drive into the back of the net, putting the game out of reach.
Holiday joined the U.S. women’s national team in 2007 after a stellar career at UCLA, where she was named an NSCAA Freshman of the Year in 2006 and led the conference with 19 goals. She garnered numerous awards en route to rewriting the UCLA record books for points (173) and game-winning goals (28) and tied the record for career goals with 71. She also had 31 career assists, second-best in school history.
Holiday was a standout player at Ben Davis High School in Indiana, where she was named Metro Player of the Year by the Indianapolis Star in 2004 and, in 2006, was a Parade All-American and the Gatorade Player of the Year. Holiday finished her high school career with 118 goals and 67 assists and graduated ahead of schedule in 2006 in order to train with the United States Under-20 team.