The eight months since the Women's World Cup in Canada mostly have been a blur for the U.S. Women’s National Team, which has been celebrated far and wide, including with a ticker-tape parade in New York last July.
“It’s just been a whirlwind,” Shannon Boxx said before the team’s latest honor, being named “Women of the Year” at espnW’s IMPACT25 Gala in Manhattan Thursday night. “I’m retired now, but I just don’t feel like I’ve stopped.”
The trickier balance is for the players who have not retired but rather moved on to qualify for the Olympics this month, and will try to win a gold medal in Brazil come August.
The good news is the quick turnaround forced them to look ahead. The bad news is, well, it was quick.
“The first couple of months were quite exhausting, to be honest,” goalkeeper Hope Solo said. “We’re very grateful for all the success we’ve had, but I think everybody wanted a break. We were mentally exhausted, physically exhausted. But we wanted to give back to our incredible fans here in America.
“So we came back from Canada and did the ticker-tape parade and did the welcoming back in L.A. But honestly we turned the page pretty quick and we got refocused because it’s a new team. People are retiring. We did the victory tour and we got refocused because we had to qualify for the Olympics, which we just did.
“Now we’re gearing up to hopefully win a back-to-back Olympics to the World Cup, which has never in the history of sports been done. We have big pressures on our shoulders right now and I think we’re all committed to be successful.
“I don’t think you can forever stay in the past. What we did was historical and it was incredible and it pushed the game to the next level. But at some point you have to keep going and I think all of us are likeminded in the respect that we want to continue to get more and nothing’s ever good enough.
“Sometimes you need to reflect and be appreciative of all of your successes, but at the same time you have to keep pushing for new boundaries, and new successes. It’s a fine balance and you have to know how to do it as an athlete.”
Christie Rampone, a two-time Cup winner in 1999 and 2015, experienced the impact the 1999 team had on youth soccer in general and girls in particular and expects more of the season this time.
“The momentum is still going,” she said. “We’ve been out there and having so much exposure and especially flipping to the hat of being moms, with my girls being in youth soccer, you’re seeing so many more girls and boys sign up and everybody you talk to says, wow, the enrollment is bigger than ever.
“That’s amazing and shows we did impact the world, and obviously soccer, inspiring girls and boys to play.”
Regarding the Olympics, Rampone said, “I think it’s hard on the girls because they’ve been training for two years. But they’re in it and now they can relax because they qualified. They have a major tournament coming up [in early March], the SheBelieves Tournament, where they’re going to play some high-level teams and see where they have to fine tune and fix or keep going.”
Rampone turns 41 in June and is recovering from knee surgery. Any plans to retire?
“I’m not retired until they kick me off,” she said. “I was injured and just kind of want to get back to myself and see where I’m at. I’m going to play this summer with Sky Blue and then if the national team happens, it happens. But if not I’m going to play with the professional team.”