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Football star Megan Rapinoe to retire later this year

United States forward Megan Rapinoe
United States forward Megan Rapinoe Photo: PHOTOSPORT

USA forward Megan Rapinoe, one of the most successful players of her generation, says she will retire at the end of the season.

The 2019 Ballon d'Or winner made the announcement days before she leaves for her fourth Women's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

"I did want to do it my own way," the 38-year-old 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."

Two-time World Cup winner Rapinoe will retire at the end of her club side OL Reign's NWSL campaign, with the regular season ending in October and the play-off final on 11 November.

She made the announcement ahead of USA's friendly against Wales on Sunday.

"It is with a really deep sense of peace and gratitude and excitement that I want to share with you guys that this will be my last season, my last World Cup and my last NWSL season," she said.

"I could have never imagined where this beautiful game would have taken me.

"I feel so honoured to have represented this country and this federation for so many years, it's truly been the greatest thing that I've ever done and is something I'm so grateful for."

In 2019, Rapinoe was named Best Fifa Women's Player and won the World Cup golden boot and golden ball to go with her Ballon d'Or.

She has been capped 199 times and scored 63 goals for USA since making her debut in a friendly against Republic of Ireland in 2006.

She also won an Olympic gold medal at London 2012.

Rapinoe could add to her achievements this summer, she is part of the USA team bidding to make history by winning a third consecutive World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

Her career began in 2002 playing for Elk Grove Pride in the Women's Premier Soccer League.

She had spells in Australia and France before joining Seattle Reign, now known as OL Reign, winning three NWSL Shields and one Women's Cup.

USA head coach head coach Vlatko Andonovski called her "one of the most important players in women's soccer history and a personality like no other".

Rapinoe's achievements on the field have been mirrored off it - she is one of the most influential voices in sport.

She publicly came out as gay in 2012 and has spoken out about racism, sexism and homophobia, as well as being a leading voice in the campaign for equal pay for the USA women's team.

In 2016, she was the first white athlete and first female to take a knee during the national anthem in a show of solidarity with Colin Kaepernick.

Rapinoe is set to win her 200th cap in Sunday's game against Wales at PayPal Park in San Jose, California, her home state.

"It does feel very special, it feels kind of perfect," she said.

"I have like 40 people coming over for the game, this is the closest I'll ever get to playing in Redding in my career.

"It means a lot to be able to do it in the Bay, it feels like a second home.

"I grew up playing here and playing all over this area. It's where crazy little Megan got her start so it feels right to say I'm ending it here."

This story was first published by the [BBC]