1998: Chooses Florida Gators over UNC and wins NCAA title
Forget the Tar Heels and the lure of the vaunted North Carolina soccer powerhouse. Wambach picked Florida, saying her decision was 'all about people.' Wambach was an immediate impact player, helping to lead Florida to win the NCAA title in 1998. It’s the only time the Gators have ever won the Division I championship. By the time Wambach left Gainesville to be the No. 1 pick in the WUSA draft in 2001, Wambach was the two-time SEC Player of the Year and the all-time leading scorer at Florida.
Steve FranzUAA Communications
2001: Makes her international debut
On September 9, 2001, Wambach made her debut for the U.S. women’s national soccer team in a match against Germany in Chicago. She came on as a sub for Tiffeny Milbrett in the 76th minute and the U.S. won 4-1.
Getty ImagesJonathan Ferrey
2003: Wins WUSA MVP with Washington Freedom
Wambach won the WUSA Founders Cup 'Most Valuable Player' award while playing for the Washington Freedom after topping the Atlanta Beat in 2003. Wambach notched a goal in the seventh minute, scoring the second-fastest goal in the championship match's history.
Getty ImagesDonald Miralle
2004: Scores 2004 Olympic Gold medal winner in extra time
Abby Wambach scored the game winner in the 112th minute of the 2004 Olympic Games final against Brazil. Wambach’s header delivered the U.S. the gold medal. It’s just one of the 77 headers Wambach scored over the course of her career.
LA Times via Getty ImagesWally Skalij
2009: Scores her 100th international goal
In her hometown of Rochester, NY, Wambach scored her 100th career international goal in a 1-0 win over Canada. On that day Wambach joined eight other players, including Americans Mia Hamm (158), Kristine Lilly (129), Michelle Akers (105) and Tiffeny Milbrett (100), in the 100-goal club.
Getty ImagesTony Quinn
2011: Scores 'greatest goal in World Cup history'
It is the goal that was voted the greatest goal in Women’s World Cup history, and the best goal in U.S. soccer history. In the quarterfinals of the 2001 World Cup against Brazil, with the U.S. looking like it was about to flame out again, Wambach connected on Megan Rapinoe’s perfect 'Hail, Mary!' pass in the 122th minute to notch the tying goal, leading to the U.S. win on penalty kicks. Despite the victort, the U.S. would eventually dramatically lose to Japan in the final.
AFP/Getty ImagesODD ANDERSEN
2012: Plays mind games with Canada in Olympic semifinal
Wambach may have played a supporting role, but what a performance in one of the greatest games ever in U.S. women’s soccer history. On the verge of losing to Christine Sinclair and Canada in the semifinal match in London, it was Wambach who counted off the seconds Canada goalkeeper held the ball that helped push the officiating in the semifinal in favor of the U.S. Wambach tied the game at 3-3 in the 80th minute after Canada was whistled for hand ball in the box. Then, in extra time, Alex Morgan scored the game-winning header as Canada double-teamed Wambach. The U.S. won gold over Japan three days later.
2012: Wins FIFA Women's World Player of the Year award
Abby Wambach bolstered her collection of hardware with the top prize for female players in international soccer. After winning U.S. Soccer’s Athlete of the Year five times, she finally won FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year. With 27 goals in 32 games against defenses designed to stop the prolific scorer, Wambach beat out perennial winner Marta, who came in second, and her running mate Alex Morgan.
AFP/Getty ImagesOLIVIER MORIN
2013: Breaks Mia Hamm’s scoring record
When Wambach broke Mia Hamm’s scoring record in a match against Korea Republic, she did it in style. Wambach eclipsed Hamm’s longstanding record (158) for most international goals by any soccer player with a hat trick.
Getty ImagesAl Bello
2015: Finally becomes a World Cup champion
Although she started only three games and came off the bench in four, Wambach helped secure the Women’s World Cup title that had been missing since 1999. Just three months after bringing home the trophy, Wambach announced her retirement from soccer at the end of 2015.