Megan Rapinoe strikes a familiar pose at the World Cup. (Michael Chow-USA TODAY Sports)
Before the Women’s World Cup kicked off, Megan Rapinoe had no delusions of grandeur of winning any individual honors.
“No, I would not have predicted that at all,” she said. “I actually said to Alex [Morgan] at the beginning of the tournament to make sure someone from our line – either me, Tobin [Heath] or her — gets the most goals. Obviously, I was thinking of her as history would suggest. Just incredible.”
Instead, it was the 34-year-old Rapinoe who made history as the United States captured its second consecutive World Cup and fourth overall in France this summer. She took home top individual honors as MVP and leading goal-scorer — the Golden Ball and Golden Boot.
“I’m made for this,” Rapinoe said. “I love it, I do love it. Getting to play at the highest level in a World Cup with a team like we have is ridiculous. To be able to couple that with everything off the field and to back up all those words with performances and to back up all those performances with words, it’s just incredible.”
Some of the off-the-field issues included the USWNT’s push for equal pay as the men and an on-going feud with President Trump as to whether the team would make a White House visit, if invited, after winning it all.
Rapinoe was one of the American players who led the charge for equal pay for the USWNT.
Several times during the celebration at New York City Hall honoring the team after it returned home, the crowd chanted, “USA! Equal Pay!”
Even though U.S. Soccer Federation president Carlos Cordeiro mispronounced her name, Rapinoe felt he and the USSF would eventually come around.
“I think he’s on the right side,” she said. “I think he’s going to make things right.”
During his eight-minute speech at City Hall, Cordeiro said that female athletes “deserve fair and equitable pay.”
“We hear you, we believe in you, and we’re committed to doing right by you.”
Jill Ellis, who became the second coach to win two World Cup championships, tying Italy’s Vittorio Pozzo (men’s titles in 1934 and 1938), knew how special Rapinoe is.
“Megan was built for these moments, built to be a spokesperson for others,” she said. “The bigger the spotlight, the more she shines. Sometimes spotlights can burn people, but for Megan, it just highlights who she is.”
Rapinoe scored six goals in the World Cup, including the first strike of the 2-0 victory over the Netherlands in the final in Lyon July 7.
Not surprisingly, she added to her spoils, which included FIFA’s Best women’s player, the women’s Ballon D’Or and Sports Illustrated’s woman athlete of the year.
Rapinoe did not win every honor. Teammate Julie Ertz was named U.S. Soccer’s Female player of the year.
“Pinoe is one of my favorite people,” Ertz said. “She is so easy to like. She is personable and is a leader. When you meet her you almost just fall in love with her because she cares so much about how others feel and that’s exactly what a captain should embody.”