Megan Rapinoe retires from USWNT: Live updates, score, reaction from final US soccer game vs South Africa

Megan Rapinoe scored essential goals as the United States women’s national team won their way to a gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics and World Cup titles in Canada and France. She was named the winner of the Golden Boot and Golden Ball at the FIFA Women’s World Cup, the Ballon d’Or and Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year award, all in 2019.

So why does it feel inescapable her greatest moment with the USWNT came in one of the few tournaments she played that didn’t end in triumph?

Her assist to Abby Wambach late in added time of the 2011 World Cup quarterfinal — an ideally placed cross Wambach was able to head into the goal to keep the U.S. alive “at the death”, as the English call it — was so dramatic it nearly is impossible to surpass. The USWNT later lost the final to Japan in a penalty shootout, but the perfection of her pass and the drama of the moment will remain, for many, what comes to mind when they think of Rapinoe’s career.

We could talk today, her final day with the USWNT, about her activism. Whether one views her as an advocate or antagonist, though, that’s not going to stop. She will continue to be an important voice. Today is about the end of her extraordinary playing career: 203 national team caps, 63 goals, 73 assists, two World Cup titles, one Olympic gold medal. She ranks among the USWNT’s greats, in the same sentence as Michelle Akers, Mia Hamm, Carli Lloyd, and Wambach.

Today, at Chicago’s Soldier Field, she’ll line up with the USWNT crest on her jersey one final time.

WATCH MEGAN RAPINOE’S FINAL GAME: Sign up for FuboTV’s free 7-day trial

USWNT vs South Africa live score, result

Here is a tally of the goalscorers in Megan Rapinoe’s final game with USWNT.

  Score Goalscorers
USWNT 2 Rodman, Sonnett
South Africa  0

Megan Rapinoe retires from USWNT: Updates, reaction

Three days after fellow USWNT legend Julie Ertz played her final game, Rapinoe takes the field for the final time with the U.S. women’s national team.

Here is a running diary of Rapinoe’s ride into the sunset including our favorite memories, running commentary and overall reaction to one of the greatest soccer players in American history.

USWNT vs South Africa live stream, TV channel

In the United States, you can watch Rapinoe’s final game on TNT and Universo. Soccer fans can also stream it live on FuboTV which is currently offering a seven-day free trial!

  TV channel Streaming
USA TNT, Universo Fubo, Watch TNT, Peacock, Universo NOW, Telemundo Deportes en Vivo

MORE: Get the lowdown on USWNT interim head coach Twila Kilgore who takes over for Andonovski

What time does USA vs South Africa kick off?

This international friendly at Soldier Field kicks off on Sunday, September 24 at 5:30 p.m. ET in Chicago, Illinois.

What did Rapinoe say about her career before the game?

Rapinoe was, not surprisingly, featured at the USWNT’s matchday minus-1 news conference and took questions from the assembled reporters.

At a news conference Saturday, Rapinoe was asked by USA Today’s Nancy Armour whether she would be prouder, as she leaves the game, of what the USWNT achieved in competition during her career or the progress made away from competition.

“By a mile, what we’ve done off of the field. I think that has made such a lasting impact … just to think of where the program has grown, and the federation has grown and just pushing the sport to grow in general – we’ve actually made that better.

She also cited the USWNT’s advocacy for “gay rights or racial justice or trans rights” relative to sports, and in particular women’s sports. She left unsaid what the current group achieved in terms of pushing for “equal pay” for women’s soccer; the men’s national team and women’s national team now pool their World Cup prize money and divide it equally between the players in the two groups, a standard that has spread to federations in other FIFA nations. Their advocacy also was a significant agent of change with FIFA, which decided just months ahead of this year’s Women’s World Cup to nearly double the prize pool.

“We’ve been such a driver of that and have made that just as important as what we are doing on the field,” Rapinoe said. “I think we really believe it’s just as important. We understand what it means to not have to sacrifice who you are, and what that means for your play on the field.

“I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve done on the field. Obviously we’ve been a really special generation of players. But I think it says a lot about us that everything on the field kind of pales in comparison to what we’ve achieved off the field and where we’ve chosen to sort of throw our weight and the way we have used which is our greatest gift.”

What’s the lineup for USWNT against South Africa?

Rapinoe starts in her customary position on the left side of a 4-3-3 formation, with longtime teammate Alex Morgan at striker and 21-year-old Trinity Rodman on the right.

In the midfield, Lindsey Horan is at the front of a triangle-style alignment, with Andi Sullivan and Emily Sonnett playing in a double-pivot alignment.

The back line consists of veteran left back Crystal Dunn, central defenders Tierna Davidson (sufficiently recovered from injury to reclaim a position she held for the 2020 Olympics) and Naomi Girma (widely considered the team’s best player at the 2023 World Cup) and Casey Krueger at right back.

Emerging Casey Murphy — with 10 shutouts in 14 starts for the USWNT — will protect the U.S. goal.

What occurred in the pregame ceremony to salute Rapinoe?

Rapinoe earned her 200th cap in the opener against Vietnam at the 2023 World Cup. She is the 14th player in USWNT history to reach that milestone

Rapinoe was accompanied onto the turf at Solder Field by two children, with thank you signs all around the stands. When she arrived at the lineup position assigned to the team captain, each or her teammates came by to offer a double high-five in salute. She then was greeted by her personal guests and family members and partner Sue Bird, the WNBA legend.

U.S. Soccer president Cindy Parlow Cone and federation sporting director Matt Crocker was present to honor her with a jersey numbered “203” — the total appearances she has made for the United States, including Sunday.

Chicago performer Sa’Rayah performed the Star Spangled Banner. Rapinoe stood at attention, her arms behind her back through a beautiful rendition of the anthem.

Rapinoe applauded and appeared to wipe tears from the corners of her eyes at the end.

The game begins!

1st minute: The captain’s armband worn by Rapinoe actually has a tribute to her final game on it. That’s interesting.

3rd minute: USA earns a corner kick, which Rapinoe moves over to take with her right foot. She launches it to the near post, but it’s easily headed away by South Africa. No one makes the run to that spot.

5th minute: South Africa loses the ball on an unforced turnover out of bounds. Rapinoe’s quick throw in to Morgan doesn’t amount to much.

7th minute: Rapinoe picks it up at midfield and plays a nice ball to Rodman in the center of the park, but her pass toward Morgan goes awry.

9th minute: On the opposite side of the field, Alex Morgan accepts a beautiful over-the-top feed, but hits it not so beautifully over the top of the goal.

11th minute: The U.S. is choosing to play down the left side as often as possible, to get Rapinoe more involved. A switch finds her with some potential to make a play, but she allowed it to go over the sideline for a South Africa throw.

13th minute: After South Africa penetrates the USWNT penalty area without generating a shot, the ball is played clear to Morgan, who sends it forward and essentially asks Rapinoe to run after it. Well, running hasn’t been Rapinoe’s thing for a while. The miracle of her 2019 World Cup performance is she was able to dominate a World Cup while having lost at least two steps of the speed she had as a younger player.

Needless to say, she did not catch up to this ball.

17th minute: A long ball fielded in space by Trinity Rodman leads to a corner kick. Rapinoe will take this one from the right side. Her low cross to the right post nearly finds Horan.

18th minute: GOAL!! Trinity Rodman slams one into the net when Krueger finds Alex Morgan down the right corner of the box. Her cross eludes the head of a South African defender, and Rodman was unchallenged for the sixth goal of her young career. 1-0 USWNT

25th minute: Crystal Dunn’s throw in down the left sideline toward Rapinoe gets stolen. South Africa has zero interest in playing a part in Rapinoe’s glorious exit.

27th minute: Andi Sullivan intercepts a clearance about 15 yards above the box in the center of the field. She plays it to the left of Rapinoe, who turns it over, but Sullivan is fouled as she makes the pass. The ref had played the advantage and grants a free kick, which Rapinoe lines up to take.

She launches from distance but can’t keep it down. It soars toward the end zone stands.

32nd minute: Rapinoe fails to hold her run and is caught offside. It was an obvious call, but the assistant referee was booed, anyway.

34th minute: Among the players on the field, only Dunn and Morgan have been longtime teammates of Rapinoe. She won a World Cup with both of them in 2019, and two more major tournaments with Morgan beyond that.

At her press conference Saturday, Rapinoe talked about how people say athletic teams are like a family, suggesting everyone loves one another. She said it’s more like family in that one does not get to choose with whom they are grouped.

But she also said veteran defender Becky Sauerbrunn, who was at the game although she could not play, was one of those players she connected with years ago. “t’s nice to have someone who understands you like that. It’s hard to step away knowing those relationships will change,” Rapinoe said.

38th minute: Rodman improbably beats the South Africa keeper to a long forward ball, and when she fields it it’s Rapinoe who is at the center of the box available for a pass. But it gets deflected away by the opposition, and that goal that would end this perfectly does not happen.

41st minute: Rapinoe remains on the right side, having taken a free kick from there minutes earlier.

43rd minute: Rapinoe picks up a loose ball and fires from 28 yards.Closer, but still over the goal. She might have been able to do better by driving forward a bit.

44th minute: It’s looking like Rapinoe is going to go into the second half before her ceremonial exit. Julie Ertz left her tribute match in the 36th minute.

45th minute: When Crystal Dunn is fouled above the left edge of the box, it’s a nice opportunity for a Rapinoe free kick.

46th minute: Rapinoe floats it in nicely, just in front of the goal line, but Alex Morgan lets it go off the top of her head and out.

HALFTIME! The USWNT has a 1-0 lead after the first 45 minutes.

It may not suit everyone, but the fact is Rapinoe has had an enormous impact on the sport of soccer, on women’s soccer in particular and the USWNT above all of that.

“I feel like everyone in the world could answer this question. I feel like she’s affected so many people’s lives in a positive way,” Rodman told Turner Sports. “She changed this sport forever, and I’m so grateful that I’m able to play on the same field as her, as well as learn from her. She’s a legend.” 

When asked in advance of the game to name her highest moment as a player, she mentioned the USWNT winning the gold medal at the 2012 Olympics. She scored three goals there, including an “Olimpico” on a corner kick against Australia. That came just a year after the penalty shootout loss to Japan in the World Cup final.

“London 2012 was amazing. That was my first major world championship. That meant everything, especially being so close the year before, to be able to finally win,” Rapinoe said. “Growing up being such a fan of the Olympics, and having that nostaligia in there.”

That was also her first major tournament after coming out as gay. And she knows that had an impact that went beyond her ability to live as she wished.

“Whether that was people coming up to me, saying how much that meant to them or gave them space to come out – I think I realized right then that, as the popularity of the team started to grow, people came to see us not just for what we were doing on the field, they came to see themselves in us. So how could we use that? How could we use the growing platform to fight for ourselves, but to fight for other people?”

46th minute: Alana Cook replaces Naomi Girma in central defense. Rapinoe remains in the game, of course. They’re not going to take her off without a chance for a standing O.

47th minute: Cook gets the chance to play the ball toward the left side off the box, where Rapinoe is unmarked. But her pass winds up in the middle of the box and is easily collected by Andile Dlamini, the South Africa keeper.

49th minute: GOAL! Rapinoe doesn’t get the assist, but her perfect corner kick is deflected away by Dlamini, but only as far as Emily Sonnett just above the 8-yard box. Sonnett beats a defender to loop a header into the goal for a 2-0 lead. It’s her second goal in 79 appearances. Rapinoe clearly enjoyed the celebration.

52nd minute: Rapinoe gets another free kick opportunity after Horan is fouled on the right side of the box. She could score from here or feed it in — but she goes for it, and it looks to some in the stadium that it’s in because it rippled the top of the net. But it was a shade too high, and over the bar.

53rd minute. This is it. Rapinoe is to be subbed. She hugs Horan first, then everyone on the field gets their turn. Crystal Dunn is the last before she walks away,claps her hands and waves — and even takes a bow. Then she shakes hands and hugs Midge Purce, who gets the honor of replacing an icon.

“I don’t know that I have any regrets. I really don’t,” Rapinoe said as she pondered this last appearance. “Not to say that I haven’t made plenty of mistakes, not always gotten everything right … I feel like I got the most out of my career. I feel like I did my absolute best. I feel like I maximized my talent.”

Given her penalty miss in the shootout at the World Cup, which helped eliminate the USWNT from the World Cup at the earliest stage in their history, it stood to reason this was not going to be a Hollywood-style ending for Rapinoe. She is not the player she used to be, although she still can muster a moment here or there and remains an important leader for this team. And that’s what she did. That cross that set up Sonnett’s goal was what she had left to give. It’s unfortunate that moment came in a friendly, and not in Oceania as the World Cup transpired. But even she admitted that’s not how sports always go.

Very few of the great champions go out at their best, on top, because they sometimes love the game beyond the limits of the human form. Michael Jordan could have had that exit, but came back to play for the Washington Wizards. Tom Brady had it on a platter! He was 43 years old, Super Bowl champion and MVP, and he went back for two more years. Rapinoe was only 34 at the last World Cup. It was not her time. This was.

60th minute: Rodman nearly has a brace as she rifled a shot after a dribbling advance, but it slams off the crossbar.

61st minute: With Rapinoe now a spectator, we get the chance to examine how clearly these two friendlies are showing what an opportunity the USWNT fumbled under Vlatko Andonovski. This is a very respectable opponent; South Africa reached the round of 16 at the World Cup. But this game and the one in Cincinnati on Thursday were entirely one-sided. It’s now 5-0 over two games.

64th minute: The United States is giving a debut to Mia Fishel, a 22-year-old from San Diego who can become a significant player at striker for the USWNT. She began her career in LigaMX Femenil. 

Midfielder Emily Fox also entered he game, as did midfielder Savannah DeMelo. 

68th minute: Fishel is one of two young forwards in this camp, along with Jaedyn Shaw, and Rapinoe believes in the future of this team. She noted that no one knew who she was when she started and it was all about the legends who were leaving or had been established, like Hamm and Wambach.

“The team still has a crazy amount of talent and potential. And just, like, good kids,” Rapinoe said before the game. “Going through the World Cup this year was not what we wanted. But what I saw in terms of character and work ethic and the growing culture of the team is really amazing. Everybody wants to be the best, and everybody wants to be their best and give what they can to the team.”

73rd minute: It looks like right back Casey Krueger is feeling some discomfort in her left leg. She’s going to be subbed out, with Lynn Williams coming in at forward and Purce having to move to defense.

75th minute: Fishel shows some nice skill on a forward backheel flick, but there was no apparent target for her manuever.

77th minute: A counterattack by South Africa leads to Murphy needing to guard her post, but was it really a threat?

81st minute: Lynn Williams’ steal in the box leads to an opportunity for Horan to fire from just outside, but he knocks it over the crossbar.

82nd minute: A cross from Purce on the right finds Horan in the middle of the box with plenty of space to shoot, but the closing defense deflects it beyond the right post.

85th minute: With Rapinoe out, Andi Sullivan takes the corner kick, but it’s too close to the keeper. Fishel does a nice job getting position inside and almost wrestles away the ball, but they’re always going to favor the keeper in such interactions. A foul is called that stops the play.

86th minute: Rodman feeds Fishel with a nice lateral pass, but Fishel’s shot from distance bounces outside the right post.

90th minute: There will be four minutes of added time.

The USWNT has had 65 percent possession to South Africa’s 35 percent. South Africa did not have a shot on goal until the second minute of added time.

Full time: USWNT 2, South Africa 0

The United States wasted a lot of opportunities to make it a more imbalanced scoreline, but it couldn’t have been much more imbalanced as a game.

In the aftermath, it’s time for Rapinoe to exchange hugs with the opposition, starting with Dlamini.

She was asked before the game about expressing joy in the game, and her response recalled the criticism of the USWNT after their 13-0 victory against Thailand in the opener of the 2019 Women’s World Cup. The players who scored continued to celebrate as those goals stacked up; I was in the stands, the upper left corner end zone, and the American fans were having a wonderful time and enjoying what was happening. 

But afterward, there was a great deal of criticism of those celebrations. Rapinoe almost seemed to be still defending the team’s behavior Saturday, although she did not specifically cite that evening while explaining her approach.

“You can’t go back and enjoy any of these moments. If you don’t do it in the moment, it’s just gone,” Rapinoe said she often tells younger teammates. “You work hard, you deserve to celebrate those moments where you’re successful.”

Postgame — Rapinoe offers thanks

Addressing the Solder Field crowd, Rapinoe thanked those in attendance mentioned how she felt like she “was able to grow up in front of all of you. When I think about what it means to me to represent not only this team, but this country, it’s just that — we’re a little snapshot of all of you.”

She talked about the successes the USWNT fought to earn on the field, and also said, “We fought so hard off the field to continue to create more space for ourselves to be who we are, but hopefully, in turn, more space for you guys to be who you are.

“It has been such an honor to be able to wear this shirt and to play with all these amazing players and to live out my childhood dream, just casually, like in front of the world.

“I’m not going to go away forever. I’m one of you guys now. I’ll be the biggest fan of this team.”

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