Rapinoe: My retirement will help USWNT to focus

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Megan Rapinoe said her decision to announce her retirement before the Women’s World Cup will help the United States better focus on its attempt to win a third world title.

The 38-year-old forward, who will retire at the end of the 2023 National Women’s Super League season, said on Wednesday that speculation over her playing future would have been a persistent storyline for her and the USWNT this summer.

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“Obviously I’m 38 years old, I’m not going to be playing forever and it just always feels weird for me to have something settled and feel at peace and to not answer a question honestly,” Rapinoe said. “I kind of wanted to have that for myself.

“I think it allows me to focus a lot more, allows the team to focus a lot more. We don’t have to get questions every time, every single game. It’s just kind of out there and I can just really enjoy it and focus on trying to win the tournament.”

Rapinoe said she wants to add to her two Women’s World Cup titles this summer but also wants to inspire young New Zealand women to play soccer.

“I think especially those of us who have been around for a long time, it certainly wasn’t like this for all the World Cups that we’ve been a part of our entire career,” Rapinoe said.

“I think we can really see and feel the game growing and world changing around us.

“I know what that meant for me to be able to see Mia Hamm up close or see Brandi Chastain up close when I was younger — so hopefully it’s an inspiration to them, but I think it’s also an inspiration to us as well.”

Rapinoe praised the training facilities the U.S. team has experienced since arriving in Auckland and said the cold, wet weather was not a concern.

As for her hair, Rapinoe said she has brought a range of colors to New Zealand and fans can expect regular changes.

The USWNT kicks off its campaign for a third straight title, and fifth overall, against Vietnam at Eden Park on July 22 before facing Netherlands and Portugal at the World Cup, which is being co-hosted by Australia.

Forward Alex Morgan said arriving in the host country for a World Cup gives rise to a mixture of “nerves, anticipation and excitement” and that while there are a lot of similarities with the previous editions this one is “going to be the best one yet.”

“We have 32 teams in the World Cup like never before, so it’s just going to be very competitive; it’s going to be the most watched World Cup,” Morgan said.

Information from Reuters contributed to this story.

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