SAN JOSE, Calif (Reuters) -United States forward Megan Rapinoe will retire after this season, the 38-year-old said on Saturday, days before she leaves for the Women’s soccer World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

The charismatic veteran will compete in her fourth World Cup when the tournament kicks off on July 20, and said she will hang up her cleats after completing her National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) season.

“I feel very grateful that I’m here and that I have the trust of this team and that my body has held up this long to do this,” said Rapinoe, who is the oldest player on one of the most inexperienced squads the United States have produced.

Arguably the most recognisable figure in all of American soccer, Rapinoe earned the Golden Boot for her heroics in the 2019 World Cup, the same year that she helped kick start her team’s pay equity fights against their own federation.

She told reporters she had known for about a year that this would be the point at which she would be ready to retire.

“I did want to do it my own way,” said Rapinoe.

The United States are gunning for an unprecedented third consecutive title when the World Cup kicks off. They play Wales in a farewell warm-up match on Sunday in San Jose, California.

(Reporting by Nathan Frandino in San Jose, California, and Amy Tennery in New York)

Brought to you by