Abby Wambach retires before Rio Olympics

Abby Wambach
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Abby Wambach, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, will not play in the Rio 2016 Olympics, announcing her retirement on Dec. 16 on Tuesday.

“After much deliberation and talking with my friends, family, teammates and our coaching staff, I’ve decided to finally bring my soccer career to an end,” Wambach said in a press release. “While we still have more work to do for women’s soccer, after bringing the World Cup back to the United States this summer, I’m feeling extremely optimistic about the future of our sport. It’s been an amazing, wonderful ride and I can’t wait to see what the next chapter of my life brings.”

Wambach’s last game for the U.S. will be Dec. 16 against China in New Orleans, the finale of its World Cup victory tour, according to U.S. Soccer.

Wambach, 35, said before this year’s World Cup and directly after winning it July 5 that she would take the weeks and months following the World Cup, possibly even into 2016, to decide on the Olympics, seeing how her body feels.

Wambach, international soccer’s all-time leading scorer, won gold with the U.S. in 2004 and 2012, scoring the tournament-winning goal in extra time against Brazil in Athens (video here). She missed the Beijing 2008 Olympics due to a broken leg suffered one month before the Games.

Wambach will turn 36 two months before the Rio Olympics. Two U.S. players older than that have played in the Olympics since women’s soccer was added in 1996 — Christie Rampone in 2012 and Joy Fawcett in 2004, according to sports-reference.com.

It would have been tougher for Wambach to make the 2016 Olympics than the 2015 World Cup not only because she would have been one year older, but also because the Olympic roster size is 18 players. The World Cup was 23 players.

The U.S. is stacked with attackers outside of Wambach, including Alex Morgan, Sydney Leroux, Christen Press and Amy Rodriguez.

The U.S. will attempt to qualify for the Rio Olympics at a CONCACAF tournament in February. They will be heavily favored to earn one of the two available spots.

MORE: Five Olympic questions with Abby Wambach