Reign FC forward Megan Rapinoe has never shied from the spotlight—her talent, dedication and confidence have meant she’s never far from it, either. Rejoining the club following the U.S. Women’s National Team’s World Cup victory this week, Rapinoe knows that the spotlight on her, her club and the league is brighter than ever.
Rapinoe and the U.S. had a tournament for the ages, smashing records left and right en route to a second straight World Cup victory and fourth overall. Individually, the forward earned the Golden Boot as the tournament’s top scorer and the Golden Ball as its best overall player.
“Obviously, it’s an incredible personal accomplishment, but I can’t do it without the team and without the style of play,” Rapinoe said. “I think the way that we played throughout the tournament put Alex (Morgan), Tobin (Heath) and I in position to be in front of the goal a lot. It was our job to finish. It’s wild. I would be just as happy if anyone won it as long as we’re sweeping everything. Alex got the Silver Boot, Rose (Lavelle) got the Bronze Ball. Alyssa (Naeher) should have gotten the Golden Glove. They basically were like ‘we can’t have the U.S. win everything,’ even though she had two less goals than everyone else. I’m still at a loss for words how to put it all in perspective, but I’m very thankful for my teammates and coaches that supported me along the way.”
Rapinoe feels that the team’s detractors, who claimed that their exuberance at the World Cup was over the top, have conflated confidence with arrogance. Confidence, she said, born of a lifetime of exposure to confident women in the soccer world.
“Normally, for a woman who is elite in whatever her position is, she’s probably the only woman there and was one of the only ones along her whole journey,” Rapinoe said. “For us, we’ve been around elite women the entire time. I think we learn from a very young age that it’s okay to be confident and okay to take up that much space. It’s okay to be bold and be big in those moments. As a team, we act that way and hold ourselves that way. I think, individually, we all gain confidence from that.”
Now, Rapinoe hopes that the World Cup can inspire others to find the same confidence in their own lives.
“I hope that we all look back and this was the cultural, watershed moment that really changed the world,” Rapinoe said. “Not only for women’s sports, but for women in general. I hope that people feel inspired by this win. I think, so much more than any other victory or success that we’ve had, this feels like everybody took ownership of it and was a part of it. People feel like they won the World Cup as well, which is an incredible thing and a very inspiring moment to rally around. I hope we look back and think that this World Cup helped change the world for the better.”
The transition back to club play won’t be a seamless one for Rapinoe. While the forward is excited to get back to club play, she knows that proper rest and recovery after the physical and mental tolls of the game’s biggest stage mean she has to be smart in returning to Reign FC. While Rapinoe will be on hand to greet fans and be honored by the club for her performance at the World Cup, an inflamed achilles tendon will keep her off the team sheet against the Chicago Red Stars on Sunday.
“The transition is equally exciting and daunting,” Rapinoe said. “It’s hard to articulate or fully appreciate what it’s like to have such a high like that. Just the buildup all along, the singular focus for so long. If you take the last 50 days, having that very specific singular focus and actually achieving that, it is pretty exhausting, emotionally and physically. To have to come back in, everyone’s really excited and wants to see you play, you have to balance that between getting yourself right and taking the time that you need. We all love playing for our club teams and the thought of getting back and playing in front of sold out crowds, the excitement that is around the league right now is what we all want and what we hoped would come from a successful World Cup. I think we’re all super excited but need a minute to get back into it. Once we’re back on the field it’s the same business for all of us. We want to win and we’re competitive. Hopefully, we’re looking to put the NWSL Championship trophy as the cherry on top of the whole year.”