Abby Wambach, the all-time leading scorer in international soccer, is hanging up her cleats.
In a retirement speech that could have been filled with tearful goodbyes and stories about the good old days, Wambach used her platform to send a powerful message about investing in women’s sports.
“I want to talk about where we can go and where we are headed. I want to talk about moving the ball forward,” said Wambach during her remarks at the National Press Club.
“I know that we’ve made huge strides. I know that we’ve made serious change happen. But I also know that there is so much more we can do. It is going to take a lot of effort. It is going to take people reaching into their pockets and investing in women. And it is not investing in me, it is about investing in the next generation of studs.”
For Wambach, investing in women’s sports is no longer the “feel good” thing to do, but rather a “smart business decision.”
Pointing to Fox Sports’ World Cup coverage, Wambach said they “killed it” last summer by believing in the women’s game and the growth potential that women could have.
Fox Sports reported the 2015 World Cup as the “highest metered market rating ever for a soccer game in the U.S. on a single network, surpassing the previous mark set for the Women’s World Cup final between the USA and China in 1999 on ABC.”
Wambach also thanked her long-time sponsors – Gatorade and Nike – for believing in her over the last ten years.
“I have been so lucky to have the opportunity to call some of the greatest brands on the planet – my family,” Wambach said.
“You will never know how valuable you’ve been to me. And all I ask is that you keep investing women. Continue that fight, it will pay off. I promise.”
While the 2015 FIFA World Cup champion and 2012 FIFA World Player of the Year did not reveal her exact next steps beyond completing the USWNT Victory Tour and spending time with her family – she did state that she does not see a coaching in her future.
Rather, Wambach has her sights set on an even bigger goal – changing the world.
“I want to be a part of changing the world. The first part of my career I have been able to do that. I have been able to change the landscape of women’s soccer as we know it,” said Wambach.
“I was put on the planet to play sport and be involved in sport. I believe that sport can transcend and give people confidence. It can change the world and actually make it a better place.”
Moving forward, her life’s mission is to make sure that – all women – are given the opportunities they deserve. This undertaking includes her NWSL teammates that she’s leaving behind and professional women soccer players to come.
“I want it to be a feeder system into a national team. Of course, I do want to stay involved – in some way, somehow,” said Wambach during a conference call shortly after her retirement address.
“I want to do whatever I can to help grow this league, and make the league here in the United States the very best league in the world. If we have the best league in the world, then the international players will come. And if the international players come we can find enough corporate sponsors to make this league not only viable but actually thrive.”
Wambach inherited the beautiful game from Mia Hamm and the ‘99ers – whom she says taught her that character is tested when things do not go your way.
Admittedly, before announcing her retirement she was worried that women’s soccer would not be better off than how she found. Now, Wambach can safely say that deep down in her heart that the sport has grown and will continue to grow.
“I know that the next generation of players will grow the game in different ways. My role will be different now, but I am still committed to continuing the growth of women’s sport and beyond.”