January 5, 2011

Soccer Legend Kristine Lilly Announces Her Retirement

Kristine Lilly, a legend who has played for the USWNT in four different decades, has announced her retirement from soccer. She has taken the field 352 times for the red, white, and blue in her illustrious career dating back to 1987, when she earned her first cap just a few days past her 16th birthday.

Lilly has been a member of the USWNT for most of its history. She played her first match on August 3, 1987 against China, when the National Team was still in its nascent stages. Just 10 days later, she scored her first goal for the team, the youngest ever to do so and a record that remains to this day.

She scored her 130th and final career goal in the USWNT's 4-0 rout over Germany on May 22, 2010, which coincidentally is also the record for the oldest player to score for the team. Lilly is second only to Mia Hamm in both career goals and assists. She has two Olympic gold medals and has been on two World Cup championship teams. Perhaps the most telling stat is that she has played in every single World Cup game that the US has ever played.

At just 5 feet 4 inches, she may have been short in stature, but she had the heart of a lion when she stepped onto the pitch. She regularly outperformed younger players, some almost half her age, in fitness and endurance tests. And on the field, she was equally adept at scoring or setting up others to score.

In college, Lilly helped lead North Carolina to four NCAA titles from 1989-92. She scored 78 goals for the Tar Heels over that four year stretch, winning the M.A.C. Hermann Award as the college player of the year in 1991.

In the professional ranks, Lilly played for the Boston Breakers in both the WUSA and WPS leagues. She scored three goals in each of her two seasons with the WPS Breakers. Additionally, she played professionally in Sweden.

“The thing that has been so great for me in making this decision is that I’m in such a good place with my life and soccer,” said Lilly. “When I look back at everything I’ve been a part of, it’s been great. There are no regrets. The opportunities I’ve had to play with so many great players and be a part of so many great moments has been amazing. There are so many people who have supported me through my journey and I really want to thank the U.S. Soccer Federation for their support of women’s soccer, the Boston Breakers, the sponsors and the fans for giving me the opportunity to live out my dreams for the past twenty-four years.”

So when the USWNT takes the field on June 28 against Korea DPR in Dresden, Germany for their 2011 World Cup opener, something will be missing. The heart, the soul, and the one constant of the USWNT almost from the team's inception, Kristine Lilly graced the pitch with her abilities and determination for 24 years. Best wishes on all future endeavors to a legend of the sport!

(Information for this story was obtained from WPS (www.womensprosoccer.com), the US Soccer Federation (www.ussoccer.com), and the University of North Carolina.)