Is Julie Ertz retiring? USWNT star to play final match against South Africa even though “Mama can still play”

The USWNT suffered World Cup heartbreak this summer, losing to Sweden in a dramatic penalty shootout.

Now, just two months later, U.S. fans face a heartbreak of a more emotional kind.

Julie Ertz, along with Megan Rapinoe, will both play in the final USWNT matches of their careers as the United States host South Africa in a friendly on September 21. While Rapinoe is still set to finish out her club season before hanging up her boots for good, Ertz will call time on her entire career following this match.

This summer’s Round of 16 exit marked the worst finish ever for the Americans at a Women’s World Cup, and a surprisingly emotional Ertz made it clear that it could have been her last meaningful match. Indeed that was true as she announced her retirement in late August.

MORE: The penalty shootout drama that ended USA’s worst ever Women’s World Cup

Julie Ertz to retire from soccer after USWNT send-off

In the immediate aftermath of their Women’s World Cup exit, a tearful Julie Ertz made it clear in an interview with Jenny Taft of Fox Sports that she believed she had played her last game for the USWNT.

“For me, it’s just emotional because it was probably my last game ever being able to have the honor to wear this crest,” she said. “Penalties are the worst, but it’s an honor to represent this team and I’m excited for the future of the girls.”

Indeed, after about a month of speculation, Ertz made that definitive, announcing her retirement and marking September 21st friendly against South Africa as her final match as a professional athlete.

Ertz stated that prioritizing her personal life was the impetus for her retirement, saying that “time with my family is just irreplaceable” while still claiming with a chuckle that “it’s not because mama can’t play, mama can play.”

She’s not wrong. It’s clear that Ertz, just 31 years old, can still perform at the highest level, and her loss to the USWNT is immense. She was deployed out of position at the 2023 Women’s World Cup, with Vlatko Andonovski using her at center-back and ceding her usual defensive midfielder spot to Andi Sullivan.

Even so, Ertz was one of the few bright spots for the United States, who struggled up front and in midfield but were exceptional at the back despite being forced to defend far more than the dominant possessional side was used to.

Julie Ertz USWNT career, stats, achievements

Ertz, 31, appeared in all four matches for the United States at this year’s World Cup. Overall, she has played 122 times for her country in senior international games, scoring 20 goals. Her final cap against South Africa will mark her 123rd and final international cap.

She will retire as a two-time Women’s World Cup champion, lifting the trophy in 2015 and 2019, while also winning an Olympic bronze medal in 2020. As a youth player, she won the CONCACAF U-20 Women’s Championship in 2012, and then the U-20 Women’s World Cup later that same year.

Ertz earned her first call-up to the USWNT in 2013. She made her debut in February of that year against Scotland. In the 10 years since, along with two World Cup triumphs, Ertz has won four SheBelieves Cups, two CONCACAF Women’s Championship titles, the Algarve Cup, the Tournament of Nations, and a bronze medal at the 2020 Olympic Games.

She was named U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year in 2017 and 2019, and has twice been included in the annual FIFA FIFPro Women’s World XI.

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