One of the great American international soccer careers has come to an end.
Christie Rampone – neé Pearce – is finally finished with the United States women’s national team, after a staggering 18-year career that produced three Olympic gold medals and two Women’s World Cup titles as well as an eight-year run as USA captain. Her 311 appearances are the second-most ever on the USWNT or any other national team in the world – male or female – behind only Kristine Lilly. She is the last member of the 1999 Women’s World Cup-winning team to retire from the national team.
Remarkably, there was little clarity on whether Rampone would keep representing the national team until now, even though she’ll turn 42 in June. Indeed, she will remain active on her Sky Blue FC team in the National Women’s Soccer League in her native New Jersey, but she will no longer represent the U.S. Rampone hadn’t seen the field for the team since September 2015 because of head coach Jill Ellis’s selection decisions and a series of injuries, but never officially retired.
On March 4, however, Rampone will be honored before the USA-England game in the second edition of the SheBelieves Cup at Red Bull Arena, just 60 miles from her hometown of Point Pleasant, N.J. The celebration will signal the end of her laureled national team career. Rampone will not play, though.
Rampone, while standing just 5-foot-6, was one of the best central defenders in the world for almost two decades, relying on her tenacity, savvy and athleticism to compensate for her lack of stature. But the thing often overlooked was her grit. She returned from two pregnancies, lived with Lyme disease and played through bone spurs and a whole host of other injuries.
“I really couldn’t have asked for more from my career with the national team, not only on the field but also in the relationships I made and the life experiences I was fortunate enough to have,” Rampone said in a statement. “As a young girl, I never imagined the things I would get to see and the amazing people I would meet. I’m looking forward to celebrating with friends and family in my home state and seeing the team play England. There are some fantastic young players as well as many of the veterans I played with leading the team, so I know it’s in very good hands.”
“Christie Rampone is a fantastic role model as a teammate, a professional and a mom,” Ellis said. “She was always humble and always focused on the team first. She was a great leader and competitor for this team for so many years, and her contributions to women’s soccer on many levels will always be remembered and appreciated. One of my best memories from the 2015 World Cup was seeing Christie on the field at the final whistle. It was so appropriate for her to finish as a champion because that’s what she truly is.”
How much longer Rampone will keep playing in the NWSL is anybody’s guess. She’s made it to 41, after all.
Leander Schaerlaeckens is a soccer columnist for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter @LeanderAlphabet.