Abby Wambach's last professional soccer game is tonight. After today, Wednesday, December 16, 2015, we will never see Abby Wambach play in a soccer match that matters, barring something drastic.
She will retire the all-time leading scorer in international soccer (both men's and women's) history, with at least 184 international goals to her name.
But the actual playing of the sport has always only been the half of it for Abby Wambach. Throughout her career, she worked for a more equal environment for female soccer players, and was an advocate for gay rights. Those contributions are expected to continue after she has run off the pitch for the last time.
Unless, of course, she disappears into oblivion and we forget her.
Now, there are two opposite ways to view this commercial. Cynics will say it is a corporate branding exercise designed to cash in on her impending retirement. Idealists will say it's a feel-good message from a superstar who has given the USWNT (metaphorically) everything she has.
The truth, as usual, lies somewhere in the middle. This is not your everyday soulless cash grab.
Nor, however is it a purely innocent message to little girls who want to be soccer players. The gigantic Gatorade logo at the end makes sure of that.
Of course, the message in the commercial is an exaggeration. Nobody expects Abby Wambach to actually be forgotten. It's advertising, where, to steal a line from Drew Carey, "everything's made up and the points don't matter." That's right, the points are like the USWNT players' opinions on which surfaces are suitable to be played on. They don't matter (according to FIFA); and that is why it is imperative that Abby Wambach is not forgotten.
When you think of female soccer players who advanced the sport in the U.S., two names come to mind: Wambach and Mia Hamm. Mia Hamm put the sport on the map in the U.S. Wambach ushered it into the 21st century.
It is because players like Wambach are now such big stars, and adored by so many fans, that soccer administrators at U.S. Soccer, FIFA, and the like are starting to realize the opinions of female soccer players actually matter, and that they should be put on closer footing with the guys.
Abby Wambach is unforgettable and she knows it. The reason she is unforgettable is because the game has grown so much because of her career. The reason she will not be forgotten is the game will grow even more after it ends.