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Megan Rapinoe says she'll retire after this season

SAN JOSE, Calif. - United States forward Megan Rapinoe will retire after this season, the 38-year-old said on Saturday, days before she leaves for the Women's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

The charismatic veteran will compete in her fourth World Cup when the tournament kicks off on July 20, and said she will hang up her cleats after completing her National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) season.

"I could have just, like, never imagined where this beautiful game would have taken me," said Rapinoe, who is the oldest player on one of the most inexperienced squads the United States have produced. "I feel so honored to be able to have represented this country and this federation for so many years. It's truly been the greatest thing that I've ever done."

Arguably the most recognizable figure in all of American soccer, Rapinoe earned the Golden Boot for her heroics in the 2019 World Cup, the same year that she helped to kickstart her team's pay equity fights against their own federation.

Speaking to reporters in her home state of California, Rapinoe said she had known for about a year that this would be the point at which she would be ready to retire.

"I just want to be able to soak in every moment and, you know, share it with teammates and friends and family and share it with the rest of the world. And I'm just really grateful to be able to do it in this way," the 2019 Ballon d'Or winner said. "I feel very grateful that I'm here and that I have the trust of this team and that my body has held up this long to do this."

The United States are gunning for an unprecedented third consecutive title at the World Cup. They play Wales in a farewell warm-up match on Sunday in San Jose, California.

"(There's) no distraction at hand because I know what it is to lose in a World Cup final, and I certainly don't want to do that again," said Rapinoe. "So the best way that I could possibly go out is winning."

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Rapinoe has eased into the role of a substitute in the four years since her star turn in France and credited her fiancee, retired Women's National Basketball Association great Sue Bird, with helping her to take the next step off the pitch.

An advocate on an array of social issues, Rapinoe famously sparred with former U.S. President Donald Trump during the 2019 World Cup and earned a public rebuke from U.S. Soccer when she knelt during the playing of the national anthem in 2016 in solidarity with NFL player Colin Kaepernick.

"I feel incredibly grateful to have played as long as I have, to be as successful as we’ve been, and to have been a part of a generation of players who undoubtedly left the game better than they found it," she said in a statement.

Her club OL Reign, where she has spent the entirety of her career in the NWSL, will host a celebration of her on Oct. 6. Rapinoe joined OL Reign in their inaugural season and holds the team record for most career goals (48) and assists (25).

The United States kick off their World Cup campaign on July 22 against Vietnam.

(Reporting by Nathan Frandino in San Jose, California, and Amy Tennery in New York; editing by Clare Fallon)

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