"I feel like I’m living life for the first time," Lloyd said. (Ira L. Black/Getty Images)

Carli Lloyd spent 17 years playing for the U.S. women’s national team before her retirement in 2021.

The star forward not only reached the highest levels of the sport but excelled, as she won two World Cups and two Olympic gold medals. She finished her career with 316 caps and 134 goals for the USWNT, and the latter mark ranks third all-time for the national team.

During that time, she dedicated herself fully to the sport.

“Everything revolved around soccer,” she said in a recent interview with Sun Outdoors. “Every thought that I had during the day. Everything that went into my body. The sleep. The hydration. The massages. The recovery. Literally everything.”

In her retirement, Lloyd finally has found time to exhale.

“Being in this retirement phase, I feel like I’m living life for the first time, which is wild,” she said.

Lloyd has joined Gotham FC’s ownership group. She has worked as a soccer analyst for Fox Sports, including at the men’s World Cup underway right now in Qatar. She has found time to travel with her husband and with her family.

“I just feel a little bit more relaxed,” she said. “I feel like I’m able to just live life. It sounds pretty crazy, because I just had 17 amazing years, but I’d be sitting here thinking, I’ve got to train tomorrow, got to to do this, got to do that… It’s almost like that guilt you feel.”

Still, she looks back proudly on what she and her teammates were able to accomplish, on and off the field.

Lloyd joined Hope Solo, Becky Sauerbrunn, Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe in filing an equal-pay complaint in 2016, which swelled into a fierce battle for gender parity in soccer. USWNT players reached a proposed $24 million settlement in February over a gender discrimination lawsuit against U.S. Soccer, and they reached a new collective bargaining agreement that guarantees equal pay with the men’s team.

“We always went through negotiations and all these different things, and we’d come out feeling like, ‘Well, we should just accept what we’re being given,'” Lloyd said. “And eventually that gets old. Eventually, you’re like, ‘OK, that’s not good enough.’

“So I’m really proud of everybody. It’s really hard to be in a lawsuit with your employer and to show up and still have to compete and do all that. But first and foremost we were competing and striving to win and make it better for generations to come.”

Only after Lloyd announced her retirement in August 2021, though, did she really soak in every moment.

She played for several more months after announcing her retirement, for the USWNT in friendlies and for Gotham FC in the NWSL, before finally hanging up her boots in November 2021.

“When I announced my retirement until the day I retired, it was the first time in my career where I actually didn’t have tunnel vision,” she said. “I looked up into the crowd, I read posters that people made, I heard the chants, I heard them screaming my name, and I just soaked it all in.”

Her retirement tour helped her learn how to live in the moment, a lesson she has carried through her first year of retirement from the sport.

“I had fun winning. I had fun having a goal and every day working toward something,” she said. “But I can’t say that I fully soaked in every moment and really really enjoyed life and my career as I’m doing now.