This week, legendary Brazilian superstar Marta announced that she’ll retire from the national team at the end of 2024.

In an interview with CNN Esportes published Thursday, the iconic footballer confirmed that she would be hanging up her boots regardless of whether or not she ends up making Brazil's 18-player roster for the 2024 Paris Olympics. 

“If I go to the Olympics, I will enjoy every moment, because regardless of whether I go to the Olympics or not, this is my last year with the national team,” she said. “There is no longer Marta in the national team as an athlete from 2025 onwards.”

Marta will retire as a giant of the women's game, having appeared in five Olympics and multiple World Cups. When discussing her retirement, she stressed confidence in the rising generation of Brazilian players, noting that she was, “very calm about this, because I see with great optimism this development that we are having in relation to young athletes." 

The statement echoes back to a plea she made during the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup after Brazil lost to France 2-1 in the Round of 16. “It's wanting more. It's training more. It's taking care of yourself more. It's being ready to play 90 plus 30 minutes. This is what I ask of the girls,” she said then, addressing the young players following in her footsteps. 

In 2023, she signaled a farewell to World Cup competition with the same sentiment, telling media, “We ask the new generation to continue where we left off.”

If selected for the 2024 Olympic team, Marta has a shot at extending her own consecutive-scoring record with the ability to score in an unbelievable sixth-straight Olympic Games. She currently stands as Brazil’s top goalscorer, racking up 116 career goals in 175 matches, as well as the leading goalscorer in any World Cup, women’s or men’s, with 17 to her name. 

Marta will continue to play for the NWSL’s Orlando Pride through at least the end of 2024. The longtime forward and club captain has already contributed to multiple goals this season.

Editor’s note: This article first was published on Aug. 7, 2023.

As her U.S. women’s national team career came to an end in the Round of 16 at the 2023 World Cup, Megan Rapinoe took some time after the loss to reflect on her legacy.

In the moment, her missed penalty kick in the shootout loss to Sweden looms large. Rapinoe – who hadn’t missed a penalty in international play since 2018 – called it “sick joke.” But as the sting of the loss fades, what will remain is what she gave to the game, on the field and off it.

And even in the aching disappointment of defeat, Rapinoe tried to keep everything in perspective.

“I still just feel really grateful and joyful,” she told Fox Sports after the match. “And I know it’s the end and that’s sad, but to know that this is really the only time I’ve been in one of these (post-loss interviews) this early says so much about how much success I’ve been able to have and just how much I’ve loved playing for this team and playing for this country. It’s been an honor.”

As a member of the USWNT since 2006, Rapinoe has won two World Cup titles, an Olympic gold medal, a Ballon d’Or and much, much more. She also has advocated for equal pay and LGBTQ+ rights as a self-described “walking protest.” Before the World Cup, she announced her retirement from the sport at the end of 2023. But Sunday’s loss “doesn’t take away anything from this experience or my career in general,” she said.

With such a long and illustrious career, it can be difficult to pinpoint one moment that stands out among the rest. But Rapinoe pointed to a moment after 2019 World Cup final as one of the most memorable, when fans began to chant for equal pay after the USWNT victory.

“They were saying ‘equal pay,’ but they could’ve been saying a lot of things,” she said. “This team has always fought for so much more, and that’s been the most rewarding part for me. Of course, playing in World Cups and winning championships and doing all that, but to know that we’ve used our really special talent to do something that’s really changed the world forever, I think that means the most to me.”

The 38-year-old forward isn’t the only big-name player to retire from international play following this World Cup. Brazil legend Marta also had announced before the tournament that this would be her final World Cup, and Canada captain Christine Sinclair has hinted at the same.

For many of the players that follow these legends, their journey will about lighting the way that was paved for them for the generations that follow.

“Megan and that generation has paved the way for us,” Lynn Williams said. “And we would be doing them a disservice if we didn’t just continue on that torch and continue to push the needle forward. They fought so much for us off the field and on the field. So we owe a lot to them.”

Brazilian star Marta isn’t ruling out playing in next year’s Olympics.

The forward announced ahead of the 2023 World Cup that it would be her last for Brazil. The all-time leading World Cup goal scorer, Marta competed in her sixth World Cup this summer.

The tournament ended in disappointment for Marta and Brazil, as they were eliminated in the group stage after a scoreless draw with Jamaica.

“We know we had a team to go a little bit more far in the competition,” she told reporters Wednesday. “Of course, a few things were missing — that’s why we didn’t make it. But soccer, it’s been everything for me. So [to] go back home and then start training after one week really helped me to look forward.”

Marta currently plays for the Orlando Pride of the NWSL. The Pride will resume regular-season play on Sunday against the Chicago Red Stars.

The 37-year-old also reiterated on Wednesday that this World Cup was her last.

“But I didn’t say I’m not going to play the next Olympics,” she said. “I don’t have the answer yet. But I’m working on, to feel day by day if I still have the power that I can share with the team, with Brazil, and then fight for a gold medal.”

Brazil women’s soccer’s best finish at the Olympics has been the silver medal in 2004 and 2008. Brazil has also never won a World Cup, having finished as runners-up in 2007.

Just Women’s Sports is here with your daily World Cup Digest, breaking down all of the biggest storylines from each day of action in Australia and New Zealand.

Today’s top World Cup news: Marta’s sixth World Cup ends in group stage

A legendary World Cup career came to an end Wednesday, as Marta and Brazil bowed out in the group stage in a scoreless draw with Jamaica. She leaves her final World Cup as the top goalscorer in tournament history.

Marta nearly added another Wednesday in her first start of the tournament for Brazil. She came inches from finding the back of the net in the fifth minute.

Ultimately, though, Brazil fell short, marking the first time since 1995 that the team has failed to advance out of the group stage. In contrast, Jamaica earned its first trip to the knockout rounds. Marta and Jamaica’s Khadija “Bunny” Shaw shared a moment after the match in a symbolic passing of the guard.

And Marta herself issued a call to action in a passionate postgame interview.

“Continue supporting women’s football,” she said. “I am grateful to have had the opportunity to play in another World Cup… Hugely grateful. … But for (my teammates) it’s not over, for Brazil and the world, continue to support. For Marta, that is the last World Cup. For me, that is the end, but it’s just the beginning for the others.”

The 37-year-old forward won’t be retiring from the game just yet, but ahead of the tournament she said that “we have to understand that a time comes for us to prioritize other things.”

She not only stands as the top goalscorer in tournament history but also the first player to score in five consecutive World Cups, though she did not score in this one.

“I knew that she was big, she’s a famous player,” Brazil coach Pia Sundhage had said before the game. “[But I] couldn’t even imagine how big she is in Brazil. … I get very emotional just being around such a good player. Not only what she’s going to do tomorrow, but what she’s done for so many years and been a fantastic role model.”

Today’s top highlight: Bunny Shaw and Jamaica celebrate knockout round berth

After crowdfunding their way to the World Cup, Jamaica will advance to the knockout rounds for the first time. The unforgettable moment was celebrated by the players and coaches after Wednesday’s draw with Brazil to close out the group stage.

“This is one of the best days I’ve ever had in my life,” Jamaica coach Lorne Donaldson said. “To see a country like Jamaica be able to do this, it’s unbelievable. The girls are doing it for the country, the country should be proud.

“We had resilience, fight. We are going into a war and we need to be ready,” he added. “And it was a war, and we stayed in the battle.”

Today’s results:

  • Sweden 2, Argentina 0
  • South Africa 3, Italy 2
  • France 6, Panama 3
  • Jamaica 0, Brazil 0

More World Cup news to know:

  • Marta Cox scored first against France on a banger, but it didn’t take long for Les Bleues to get going – particularly Kadidiatou Diani, who notched a hat trick for her first goals of the tournament. In the end, France put up six goals despite resting some of their big-name players.
  • The USWNT will face Sweden, which won Group G and maintained its perfect World Cup record with a 2-0 win over Argentina. The last time these two teams met resulted in a 3-0 loss for the USWNT at the Tokyo Olympics. Still, World Cup history favors the USWNT, which holds a 4-1-1 record against Sweden in World Cup competition.

The Women’s World Cup is almost here, and Just Women’s Sports is taking a look at the tournament’s all-time leading goal scorers.

Though Alex Morgan doesn’t crack the top 10 on this list, it’s worth noting that the U.S. women’s national team forward and Michelle Akers hold the record for the most goals scored in a single World Cup match. Morgan scored five goals against Thailand at the 2019 World Cup, 28 years after Akers did so in 1991 (she also set the record for most goals scored in a tournament that year with 10).

Morgan and Megan Rapinoe each have a chance to make it onto the elite list with just one more goal at this year’s World Cup.

5. Ann-Kristin Aarønes (Norway), Carli Lloyd (USA), Heidi Mohr (Germany), Christine Sinclair (Canada) – 10

Four players have scored 10 goals in their World Cup careers, including the USWNT’s Carli Lloyd and all-time international leading goal scorer Christine Sinclair. Sinclair is the only member of this group still competing, with Lloyd retiring after the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. Both Mohr and Aarønes notched impressive World Cup performances in their careers. Mohr had 10 goals in 12 matches, while Aarønes had 10 goals in 11 matches.

4. Cristiane (Brazil), Wen Sun (China), Bettina Wiegmann (Germany) – 11

Bettina Wiegmann appeared in four World Cups for Germany and was a part of the title-winning team in 2003. Cristiane represented Brazil at five World Cups from 2003-19 and always showed up on the world’s biggest stages. At the 2007 World Cup, she was voted third-best player of the tournament after scoring five goals, second only to teammate Marta.

Wen Sun earned the Golden Ball and Golden Boot at the 1999 World Cup after scoring seven goals in the tournament. In 2000, she was named FIFA Female Player of the Century alongside Akers.

3. Michelle Akers (USA) – 12

Akers stands alone with 12 goals scored in 13 World Cup matches. Akers originally set the record for most goals in a single match with five at the inaugural Women’s World Cup in 1991.

2. Birgit Prinz (Germany), Abby Wambach (USA) – 14

Birgit Prinz starred for Germany from 1994-2011, helping the team to two World Cup titles and earning the Silver Ball in 2007 as the second-best player at the tournament. She remains Germany’s top goal scorer, having scored 128 international goals in 214 appearances. Abby Wambach, the USWNT’s all-time leading goal scorer, set the record for the latest goal ever scored in a FIFA competition when she delivered the game-tying goal against Brazil in the 122nd minute of the quarterfinals of the 2011 World Cup.

1. Marta (Brazil) – 17

Topping the list of World Cup goal scorers is Brazilian legend Marta. She’s found the back of the net 17 times across 20 World Cup games through five tournaments. In comparison, it took Wambach 25 appearances to score 14 goals.

Marta, who has announced this will be her last World Cup, made her World Cup debut in 2003, netting three goals to help Brazil top their group. She’s the first player to score at five consecutive World Cups.

Women’s soccer jerseys can be hard to find, as fans of Brazil star Marta have found this World Cup cycle.

The 37-year-old forward, a staple on the Brazil women’s national team, started her senior career in 2002. Since then, she has amassed 174 international appearances and 115 goals. Six times, she’s been named the Best FIFA Women’s Player, and she holds the goal-scoring record at the World Cup.

The 2023 tournament will be her sixth and final World Cup, she announced earlier this month.

And yet if you’re looking to support the star by way of wearing her jersey, you could be out of luck.

As pointed out on social media, an official Brazil jersey featuring Marta’s name and number is unavailable on the Nike website in the U.S., and is also unavailable on the FIFA World Cup website. The same holds true for every Brazil player. (And every England player and every Australia jersey and… you get the picture.)

Fans in Brazil have the option to customize a national team jersey with Marta’s name and number. But one has to select the personalization option, and there is no option to ship an order outside of Brazil.

The difficulty of acquiring a Marta jersey is reminiscent of 2019, when Nike didn’t have enough U.S. women’s national team World Cup jerseys to meet the demand. Only 1,000 USWNT jerseys were made available initially, and they sold out immediately. As more quantities were made available, those sold out.

“There is definitely opportunity being lost,” Steven Scebelo — president of REP Worldwide, which headed up the USWNT licensing program — told Yahoo Sports at the time. “More jerseys could be sold for the U.S. women’s national team. There’s no doubt.”

A similar sentiment rings true this time around, as there appears to be fan demand for international jerseys but limited places for them to be found.

Brazilian soccer legend Marta has confirmed that the 2023 Women’s World Cup will be her last.

On Monday, the 37-year-old told local local media that it feels “surreal” to be preparing for a sixth Women’s World Cup.

“Yes, it will be my last World Cup,” Marta said in Brasilia on Monday. “We have to understand that a time comes for us to prioritize other things.

“I just have to be thankful to have lived all those years in the national team. To have the opportunity to go to another World Cup, a sixth one, for me is something surreal.”

Brazil head coach Pia Sundhage said it’s likely Marta will start the World Cup on the bench as she continues to recover from a knee injury. The six-time FIFA World Player of the Year had surgery last year after tearing her ACL. She returned to the national team in February after 11 months.

Marta did not play in the team’s friendlies in April, but she appeared as a substitute in Brazil’s 4-0 win over Chile on Sunday. Brazil will face Panama, France and Jamaica in the group stage at the World Cup.

Marta, a forward with the NWSL’s Orlando Pride, is Brazil’s all-time leading scorer with 117 career international goals. Brazil’s women’s national team has yet to win a World Cup trophy, with its best result being a runner-up finish in 2007.

The Orlando Pride ended the Washington Spirit’s unbeaten streak and Marta scored her first league goal since 2021 during Saturday’s regular season NWSL matchup at Exploria Stadium.

After Pride forward Adriana was taken down in the box in the 21st minute, Marta stepped to the spot. The 37-year-old Brazilian star successfully converted the penalty, sending Spirit goalkeeper Aubrey Kingsbury diving the wrong way. She celebrated with a scream, and then made a heart with her hands.

“I just thought, ‘Yes, we scored! I scored a penalty,'” Marta reflected post-game. “I think it’s double pressure because if you miss, you don’t know how the game is going to go for you and for your team. I was so happy that I (scored) and that we won this game.”

Marta, who is aiming to compete at her sixth Women’s World Cup this summer, missed the entire 2022 NWSL season after tearing her ACL in March 2022.

“Any forward wants to get that feeling back and it’s a testament to her recovery, coming back from a long-term injury,” said Orlando Pride head coach Seb Hines. “You don’t want anyone else stepping up for that penalty other than her. She’s been in that moment so often on the biggest stage. We had full confidence in her hitting the back of the back of net.”

While the Spirit responded just moments later — thanks to a beautiful Sam Staab header — the Pride regained the lead in the 77th minute when Marta assisted a goal by Kylie Strom. (Video of all three goals is embedded below.)

With the 2-1 win, the Pride are now unbeaten in their last four regular season NWSL games — a strong statement after the squad opened the season with four straight losses. They also handed the Washington Spirit — the final remaining unbeaten NWSL team — their first loss.

“Beating the (team at the) top of the table just shows that the players can go away full of confidence knowing that they can beat anyone in the league now,” Hines said.

“It probably is a statement to the league that we are here to win and here to stay and to perform.”

Since joining the NWSL in 2017, the Orlando Pride have had a tenuous foothold on the NWSL standings. Despite initially fielding a splashy lineup featuring players like Alex Morgan, Ashlyn Harris and Marta, Orlando could never quite get the results to match the potential of its assembled roster.

A high coaching turnover rate affected consistency, and the team slid toward the bottom of the table, finishing last in 2019. In the years since, Orlando has had stretches of positive results but has still struggled to compete by the end of a punishing NWSL season.

Recently, Orlando’s philosophy toward roster-building has shown a marked change from the top-heavy investment of the team’s early years. Under new head coach Seb Hines, the Pride have compiled a young core of developing players through the draft and free agency, allowing the club to put roots down before beginning to grow into a playoff contender. The question in 2023 is whether the team can contend this year, or if they’re stuck building for the next version of the future.

2022 review: Getting stuck in

Despite renewed expectations, Orlando’s 2022 season started with middling results, as the occasional attacking fireworks couldn’t quite make up for their struggles on defense. The Pride would gut out a win one weekend, and then give up four or five goals to their next opponent.

The inconsistencies weren’t relegated to on-field performances. Head coach Amanda Cromwell was suspended in June (and later expelled from the league) amid an investigation for possible retaliation, and Hines was given interim control of the team midway through the 2022 season.

Despite adversity, the Pride also proved themselves resilient in the second half of the season. Orlando pulled together a five-game unbeaten streak in June after Cromwell’s suspension, becoming a stuck-in group that was very difficult for opponents to break down. While the Pride didn’t always play the prettiest soccer, they did stop the bleeding that plagued them at the beginning of the season.

But working primarily without the ball has its costs, and at the end of the season, fatigue set in and the club struggled to implement tactics that went further than stopping the opposition. A few multi-goal losses to opponents at the top of the table, like OL Reign and Portland, firmly ended Orlando’s dream of a playoff surge and relegated the club to a 10th-place finish in the 2022 standings.

Last year, Orlando became more of a proof of concept than a fully realized soccer team, defined more by how they could frustrate other teams than the strengths they brought to a match themselves.

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Second-round pick Messiah Bright could end up being the steal of the 2023 NWSL Draft. (Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports)

Offseason moves: Building a new future

After a season of ups and downs, Hines began to further compile the young group the Pride believe can carry the team for years to come. Orlando was reportedly in the running for top free agent Debinha, but even after losing out to the Kansas City Current, the Pride front office continued to look for ways to solidify their core.

Orlando targeted talent in the draft, bringing in Emily Madril (No. 3) to partner with Megan Montefusco in the central defense and picking up underrated playmaking talent in the later rounds. Midfielder Summer Yates (No. 39) can create havoc in an NWSL midfield, and forward Messiah Bright (No. 21) could be the steal of the draft after Orlando grabbed her late in the second round. In free agency, the Pride signed Brazil forward Adriana to add extra firepower to the attack.

The Pride will also benefit from the return of legendary Brazilian playmaker Marta, who missed almost all of the 2022 season with an ACL tear. Marta brings both quality to the attack and veteran experience that will help Orlando’s young group learn the standards of the professional league. She will help make up for the loss of forward Darian Jenkins, who announced her retirement in January.

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Seb Hines begins his first season as Orlando's permanent head coach. (Courtesy of the Orlando Pride)

2023 outlook: Don’t overthink it

Perhaps for the first time, Orlando appears to be building a real foundation for the future, but their success this year will depend on how the coaching staff adapts to the team’s skill set. The midfield is still unbalanced, with more attacking midfielders than players who excel at off-the-ball defensive positioning. Mikayla Cluff is ready for greater midfield responsibilities, but she’s a forward-pushing midfielder, as is rookie Yates. The Pride can’t spend too much time trying to possess through the middle of the pitch if they want to find immediate success.

The good news for Orlando is that they don’t necessarily have to aspire to possession-based soccer when it makes more sense to play direct. With a number of quality options along the frontline, the Pride can play through their forwards while providing a level of defensive coverage they might not have had before.

Orlando’s ceiling will depend on the team’s ability to move the ball quickly and to absorb pressure. Madril and Montefusco will have to build chemistry quickly, with the hope that players like Ally Watt and Julia Doyle will be able to pounce on quick-trigger opportunities on the other end.

Ultimately, the Pride could be written off as a work in progress for the future. But many great clubs in the NWSL’s history have found ways to turn positive play into results by not overcomplicating the task at hand, and a little confidence for a team in transition could go a very long way.

Claire Watkins is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @ScoutRipley.

Marta made her return to the Brazil women’s national team at the SheBelieves Cup, and her peers from the U.S. women’s national team were quick to recognize her greatness.

“Marta’s Marta, you know?” USWNT forward Lynn Williams said Tuesday.

The 37-year-old forward tore her ACL during the NWSL preseason last March, but she has her sights set on competing in a sixth World Cup this summer.

And USWNT forward Megan Rapinoe, who has been around for the majority of the Brazilian’s career and could herself be called one of the best to play the game, pointed to Marta as just that.

“Marta’s just the greatest player, I think, that’s ever played our game,” Rapinoe said.

The owner of six Best FIFA Women’s Player awards, as well as a World Cup Golden Ball and Boot, Marta holds the overall record for the most World Cup goals scored with 17. She is also the first player ever to score at five World Cup tournaments and the first player to score in five straight Olympics.

Add in players like Debinha and Kerolin, who are just beginning their national team careers, and Brazil has a special squad headed to Australia and New Zealand in July.

“Being able to couple that old-head wisdom of Marta with players like Debinha, Kerolin, it’s just crazy. Obviously, they’ve proven it in the league and at the international level,” Rapinoe said. “They’re just really an annoying handful all the time.”

For more than 20 years now, Marta has graced crowds with her presence as a member of the Brazilian squad. But her feelings haven’t changed over the years, even as she approaches her sixth World Cup.

“I still have the passion,” Marta said. “I’m still hungry to win, doing things on the field for people to keep screaming my name. So yeah. I have the same feeling.”

She’s been on the road to recovery after tearing her ACL during an NWSL Challenge Cup match last March. And while she could have walked away from the game, Marta took her injury as a challenge.

The crowds still cheer, and Marta still has it – as evidenced by the fact that, in her first game back, she assisted on Brazil’s first goal of the SheBelieves Cup and the only goal of the game in a 1-0 win over Japan.

“It’s something that makes you feel extra motivated every day,” she said. “Because of course, I say I want to do a nice show, outside (of) the field, but most of the time on the field for these people. They deserve that, and we deserve them to be here, and to enjoy this nice moment with us.”

USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski pointed to that first game as evidence of the forward’s talent.

“She showed the first game how special she is,” he said Tuesday ahead of the USWNT’s 2-1 win against Brazil. “She comes in and makes a difference, so we expect nothing less against us. She has the quality to change the game on the spot with individual brilliance, and that’s not a secret. She has been doing that for so many years, and it’s exciting to see her back and exciting to play against her.”

But to have a career such as this, and to become known as one of the greatest of all time, doesn’t just take talent. It also takes joy.

“It doesn’t matter where you are, she is a pleasure to be around. That energy that Marta has — and she is old — that is contagious,” Brazilian manager Pia Sundhage said. “It tells me that it has nothing to do with age, it’s all about how much you love the game. And she does.”