FIFA Women's World Cup
Best moments of Megan Rapinoe’s USWNT career: Highlights and goals
FIFA Women's World Cup

Best moments of Megan Rapinoe’s USWNT career: Highlights and goals

Published Jul. 13, 2023 1:43 p.m. ET

The 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup already promised to be the end of an era for the United States women's national team in several respects, but it took on even greater significance in that regard when USWNT legend Megan Rapinoe announced Saturday that she would retire at the end of the 2023 season.

Rapinoe will not only be remembered for her years of activism and advocacy on several social justice issues, but also her excellence on the pitch when the national team needed her most.

USWNT legend Megan Rapinoe to retire after the NWSL season

Regardless of what happens in the 2023 World Cup, Rapinoe will retire as one of the most impactful and decorated women's soccer players in United States history, capped off by her Ballon D'Or nod in 2019. She is still the only American to win either the male or female edition of the prestigious soccer award.


With that in mind, let's take a look at the best moments of Rapinoe's international career.

2011: Setting up Abby Wambach's iconic header

Rapinoe's importance to the USWNT's current World Cup dynasty can be traced back to a moment where that dynasty seemed doomed before it even began. 

With the United States moments from elimination, trailing Brazil 2-1 in the 122nd minute of the 2011 World Cup quarterfinal, the then-26-year-old Rapinoe delivered a long-range, perfectly-curled ball to Abby Wambach in the box, which Wambach headed straight past the goalkeeper to equalize and send the match into penalty kicks. 

The U.S. won that shootout and eventually finished as runners-up in the tournament, which at the time was the Americans' highest finish in the Women's World Cup since winning it in 1999. It's a chilling exercise for USWNT fans to imagine what would have happened in the rest of the 2010s if the team had not seized upon the momentum created by their 2011 run, which was only possible due to Rapinoe and Wambach's all-time link-up.

2012: Her first Olympic Olimpico 

Rapinoe's now-legendary 2011 assist was just a sign of things to come regarding her ability to weave in perfectly-placed balls near the goal. An Olimpico is a rare feat in soccer, when a ball finds the back of the net directly off a corner kick without deflecting off anyone en route. Yet that is exactly what Rapinoe pulled off in the 2012 Olympics semifinal against Canada — and it would not be her last time doing so on the Olympics stage.

Rapinoe then scored another incredible — and crucial — goal later in the game, sending a long-range strike off the far post and into the back of the net to tie the match at two apiece. The USWNT would end up winning the match 4-3 en route to a gold medal in London.

2015: Getting things started in Canada

Few would consider Rapinoe the most impactful member of the USWNT's run to the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup title, its first in 16 years. That honor belongs to her longtime teammate, tournament Golden Ball winner (and now FOX Sports analyst) Carli Lloyd. But Rapinoe did set the tone for the team in its opening game of the tournament, scoring the USWNT's goal with an acrobatic shot that took a deflection off an Australia defender.

Rapinoe gives USA early lead over Australia - FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 Highlights

2018: Super-spy

With the United States men's national team infamously failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, the most memorable moment in a very forgettable period of U.S. soccer may have come when Rapinoe snuck into a Brazil huddle before a set piece during a friendly match in the 2018 Tournament of Nations series.

2019: Scoring 'every goal we needed her to’

It will forever be impossible to talk about Rapinoe's USWNT career without talking about the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup. The forward, sporting pink hair and a swagger befitting her status as one of the faces of the USWNT, scored a tournament-high six goals and won both the Golden Boot and the Golden Ball for her efforts.

"She scored every goal we needed her to score in 2019. She scored the penalty kicks, the set pieces, and in the high-pressure moments," USWNT midfielder Sam Mewis, a key player on that team, told FOX Sports recently. (Mewis is not on the 2023 U.S. World Cup squad due to a knee injury.)

None of those goals was more memorable than Rapinoe's free kick early in the quarterfinal against tournament host France, when after impossibly weaving the ball through a host of teammates and defenders to find the back of the net, she turned towards the hostile home crowd and struck a defiant pose that not only became viral but remains the enduring image of her incredible tournament.

United States' Megan Rapinoe scores free kick for a 1-0 lead, strikes pose vs. France

However, it was far from Rapinoe's only impactful moment that summer.

Her two goals off penalty kicks against Spain in the round of 16 single-handedly lifted the U.S. to a 2-1 victory in that match. She did the same against France in the next round, following her free kick and pose by making Les Bleus pay when France inexplicably left her unmarked in the box later in the match. 

Rapinoe then scored the opening goal of the United States' 2-0 win over the Netherlands in the final, converting another high-pressure penalty kick to cap off a tournament that she dominated.

2021: The Olimpico sequel

Rapinoe's second Olympic Olimpico came under very different circumstances — played in an empty stadium in Japan after a yearlong postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics due to the COVID-19 pandemic — but was no less brilliant.

Rapinoe is now 38 years old and expected to come off the bench in Austrailia and New Zealand. But given her track record for showing up on the big stage, it's easy to imagine that she may have another iconic moment or two up her sleave in her final international tournament with the USWNT.

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