After an illustrious career for both club and country, Gotham FC and U.S. Women’s National Team defender Kelley O’Hara announced today via Kelley on the Street that she will be retiring from professional soccer at the end of this year, making the 2024 NWSL season her last.

"I have always said I would play under two conditions: that I still love playing soccer, and if my body would let me do it the way I wanted to," O’Hara told Just Women’s Sports in the lead-up to her retirement announcement. "I realized a while back that I was always going to love it, so it was the physical piece that was going to be the deciding factor."

The 35-year-old will retire as a two-time World Cup champion, an Olympic gold medalist, and at least a two-time NWSL champion, depending on where Gotham finishes this season. Her legacy as a player is hard to fully encapsulate, and will forever run through some of the biggest snapshots in USWNT and NWSL history. 

In 2012, O’Hara played every minute of the USWNT’s Olympic gold medal run, after having recently converted into a defender. Her soaring goal off the bench in the 2015 World Cup semifinal is the stuff of legend. And her return from lingering injury to play in every knockout match of the national team’s 2019 World Cup win cemented a storybook international career. 

It was O’Hara who scored the overtime goal in 2021 to earn the Washington Spirit their first-ever NWSL championship, and O’Hara who returned to help see Gotham earn a title in 2023 after years spent in the trenches with the club’s previous iteration, Sky Blue. Her 15-year career spanned two professional women’s soccer leagues in the U.S. (she earned her first professional title in 2010 with WPS’s FC Gold Pride), as well as sweeping changes to the sport both on and off the pitch.

O'Hara celebrates after scoring the winning goal for the Washington Spirit at the 2021 NWSL Championship match in Louisville, Kentucky. (Jamie Rhodes/USA TODAY Sports)

On the field, O’Hara has always been known for a motor that never quits, making the right flank her domain in attacking possession and defensive transition. In recent years, she’s also been celebrated for a competitive fire that raises the level of her teammates, whether she’s in the starting XI or supporting from the bench.

But injuries take a toll, a reality not always seen by the fans watching from home. "I've never taken anything for granted, and I feel like I've never coasted either," O’Hara said of her late-career success in the NWSL despite battling injuries. "I've always been like, 'I gotta put my best foot forward every single day I step on this field' — which is honestly probably half the reason why I'm having to retire now as opposed to getting a couple more years out of it. I've just grinded hard."

Recently, O’Hara has been sidelined at Gotham with ankle and knee injuries, and the situation motivated her to really prioritize listening to her body. "To get injured and come back, and get injured and come back, and just keep doing it, it really takes a toll on you.

"People don't see the doubt that's associated with injury,” she continued. "As athletes we feel a certain way, we perform a certain way, our body feels a certain way, we're very in tune with our bodies. And there's always so much doubt surrounding injury. It’s like, 'Can I feel the way I felt before?' The reality is sometimes you don't."

O’Hara didn’t arrive at the decision to move on from her playing career lightly. But once she began seriously considering making 2024 her final year during the last NWSL offseason, it felt right. "Once I was like, 'Alright, you know what, this will be my last year,' I have had a lot of peace with it," she said. "Truly the only thing I felt was gratitude for everything that my career has been, all the things I've been able to do and the people I've been able to do it with."

She said she’ll miss daily interactions with her teammates and all the amazing memories they’ve created, though she feels lucky to have formed relationships that go beyond sharing a locker room. "You're basically getting to hang out and just shoot the shit with your best friends every day," she reflected. "Which is so unheard of, and I just feel very lucky to do it for so long."

O'Hara poses with USWNT teammates Alex Morgan and Tobin Heath after winning the 2015 Women's World Cup in Vancouver, Canada. (Mike Hewitt - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

The Stanford graduate also mentioned that the NWSL’s suspension of regular season play in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic made her realize how much playing allowed her the space to simply be creative every day. The tactical elements of soccer provided O’Hara an outlet for problem solving and made use of her naturally competitive edge.

She’s now gearing up to channel her on-field intensity into her post-playing career full time, which is a new chapter she’s excited to begin. "I don't know if the world's ready for it, like the fact that I'm not going to be putting all of my energy into football all the time," she said with a laugh. 

O’Hara said she would like to stay connected to the game in some fashion, whether it be as an owner, coach, or member of a front office. She’s also interested in the growing media space surrounding women’s sports, having provided on-camera analysis for broadcasters like CBS Sports in addition to starting a production company with her fiancée.

"I just feel like I have a lot of passions, and things that excite me," she says. "And I do want to stay as close as I can to the game, because I feel a responsibility — and I'm not sure in what capacity — to continue to grow it."

O'Hara speaking with fellow USWNT members and vets at the White House Equal Pay Day Summit in 2022. (JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

A sense of responsibility to grow the game has been a consistent refrain for the USWNT and NWSL players of O’Hara’s era, who ushered in a new age of equal pay for the national team and collectively bargained protections for those in the league. The landscape for new players looks different than it did 14 years ago, in large part due to this pivotal generation.

"I feel an immense sense of pride around that, because I don't know if any of us knew that was gonna happen," she said. "We kind of, as things unfolded, took the next step towards changing what women's football looks like in this country and around the world.

"I'm really grateful to have been part of this era with the players that I was [with], not backing down and pushing and knowing that was the right thing to do."

Whatever the future holds, O’Hara is going ahead full throttle. It’s a piece of advice she’d also give to the next generation of professionals looking to make their own impact.

"Whatever you do in life, do it because you love it, and the chips will fall in place," she said. "If you love something, you're willing to do what it takes. You're willing to make the sacrifices, you're willing to handle the roller coaster.

"To me, it's simple. Don't do it for any other reason but that, and I think you'll be alright."

Legendary WNBA superstar Candace Parker announced her retirement from professional basketball on Sunday, effective immediately.

"I promised I'd never cheat the game & that I'd leave it in a better place than I came into it," she wrote in an Instagram post. "The competitor in me always wants 1 more, but it's time. My HEART & body knew, but I needed to give my mind time to accept it."

The Las Vegas Aces forward was in the midst of rehabbing a right ankle injury and a left foot fracture after missing part of the 2023 season.

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One of women's basketball's most prominent trailblazers, Parker popularized the play of a "big guard." A back-to-back NCAA National Championship winner with Tennessee, she was drafted No. 1 overall by the Los Angeles Sparks in 2008. She was named both WNBA MVP and Rookie of the Year in her debut season with the league. 

Parker exits the pros a three-time WNBA champion, a two-time league MVP, seven-time WNBA All-Star, two-time Olympic gold medalist, and two-time NCAA champion, in addition to many more individual accolades. Throughout her 16-year career, she averaged 16 points, 8.5 rebounds, and four assists per game. She remains the only player in WNBA history to earn three WNBA titles with three different teams: LA in 2016, Chicago in 2021, and Las Vegas in 2023. 

In her announcement, the 38-year-old implied the physical toll of league play was a driving factor in her ultimate decision to walk away from the game, despite recently signing a one-year deal with Las Vegas.

"This offseason hasn’t been fun on a foot that isn’t cooperating," she wrote. "It’s no fun playing in pain (10 surgeries in my career) it’s no fun knowing what you could do, if only…it’s no fun hearing 'she isn’t the same' when I know why, it’s no fun accepting the fact you need surgery AGAIN.

"I’m grateful that for 16 years I PLAYED A GAME for a living & DESPITE all the injuries, I hooped," she continued. "I’m grateful for family, friends, teammates, coaches, doctors, trainers & fans who made this journey so special."

Fans weren’t the only ones shocked by Parker’s surprise retirement. In a reaction captured on video, Liberty forward Breanna Stewart responded to the news with a jaw-dropped, eyebrow-raised "What? Wow." 

Yet while the Naperville, Illinois native’s time on the court might be over, Parker says she isn't leaving the world of basketball anytime soon.

"This is the beginning," she wrote. "I’m attacking business, private equity, ownership (I will own both a NBA & WNBA team), broadcasting, production, boardrooms, beach volleyball, dominoes (sorry babe it’s going to get more real) with the same intensity & focus I did basketball."

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.

After Crystal Dunn was cut from the USWNT roster for the 2015 World Cup, Megan Rapinoe was there to support her.

“She was somebody who just welcomed me so much, (with) open arms,” Dunn reflected on Saturday after Rapinoe announced that she plans to retire at the conclusion of the 2023 NWSL season.

“(Pinoe) is an incredible person, human being, friend, teammate,” Dunn said in a video posted to Twitter by Women Kick Balls, getting choked up. “I just love her so much. She’s been so key for me in my career.”

Dunn said she made Rapinoe a promise heading into the World Cup year.

“One thing I did tell her at the beginning of this year is, ‘I have no idea if this is your last one, but I’m going to do whatever it takes to get myself into a place where I can help this team win. And, obviously, send her off the way she deserves (as) the queen that she is.”

Alex Morgan echoed that sentiment. The newly announced U.S. co-captain told reporters that when Rapinoe texted the group, she immediately knew how to reply: “Well, now we just have to win the whole damn thing.”

Ahead of the USWNT’s World Cup sendoff game, Megan Rapinoe on Saturday made an unexpected appearance on the press conference stage.

“It’s with a really deep sense of peace and gratitude and excitement that I want to share with you guys that it’s gonna be my last season,” Rapinoe said.

Rapinoe, who is competing in her fourth World Cup this summer, said she plans to retire at the conclusion of the 2023 NWSL season.

Rapinoe will finish her career as one of the greatest soccer players — and most influential athlete activists — of all time. The 38-year-old is a two-time World Cup champion (2015, 2019), Olympic gold medalist (2012), and winner of the 2019 Ballon d’Or Feminin. She also helped her OL Reign club team win three NWSL regular season Shield titles (2014, 2015, 2022).

Along the way, she championed LGBTQ+ rights, the USWNT’s equal pay fight, abortion access and racial justice initiatives, and she forced U.S. soccer to reconsider its own policies related to athlete protest and free speech.

In 2022, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the highest civilian honor in the United States — from President Joe Biden.

Rapinoe said her decision to announce her retirement in advance of the Women’s World Cup was influenced by watching her fiancée, WNBA legend Sue Bird, go through the process last year.

“It is incredibly rare for athletes of any stature to be able to do out on their own, in their own way, on their own terms,” Rapinoe noted.

“I’m really lucky to be in this position that I get to have agency over the end of this really beautiful part of my life.”