Three veteran members of the U.S. women's national soccer team are set to retire. They include Mia Hamm who leaves the game as the all-time leading goal scorer in the history of international soccer.
Not long after winning the Olympic gold medal in Athens, the U.S. women's soccer team announced it would play a 10-game "Fan Celebration" tour across the country, primarily so those not fortunate enough to travel to the Olympics could see this special group of women players one last time.
The successful tour comes to an end Wednesday night in Carson, California, near Los Angeles, where the Americans will take on rival Mexico. For 32-year-old Mia Hamm, 33-year-old Julie Foudy and 36-year-old Joy Fawcett, it is their farewell with the team after playing in three World Cups and three Olympics.
Hamm has played for the national team for more than half her life, becoming the youngest ever member of the team at age 15 and becoming one of the most recognizable female athletes in the world. Hamm has played in 274 international matches and scored an incredible 158 goals, more than any other male or female. The two-time FIFA player of the year says life after soccer will be a big adjustment.
"There are mixed emotions. Obviously, this is something we have known and been part of for a very long time," she said.
Teammate Julie Foudy, the longtime captain, says collectively the three retiring stars know they are leaving the game and the U.S. team in a good state.
"We've got a lot of wonderful young talent coming through and a great under- [age] 19 team and U-21 team and a lot of people that will step in and do a great job for the United States, not just as great athletes, but as we've always cared about, as great people. So it's going to be a moment to smile upon, not to be sad about," she added.
Like Julie Foudy and Mia Hamm, Joy Fawcett said she has been a fan of the game of soccer as well as a player. They all know adjusting to being on the sidelines will be different. Fawcett has the most experience in that area, having raised three children throughout her 18-year international soccer-playing career. The star defender also won't be able to play in the final match Wednesday against Mexico after recent back surgery. It also caused Fawcett to miss the last several games of the farewell tour.
"The first few games were hard to sit and watch," she noted. "You know you definitely wanted to get out there and be a part of it on the field and help. But it gets easier. It's a new and enlightening perspective as well to watch from the bench or from the stands. I think I'm ready for this time to watch it as a fan, be in the stands and cheer on the next team. I'm excited to be able to do that."
Joy Fawcett, Julie Foudy and Mia Hamm are glad they have inspired millions of young soccer players across the nation and the world. After what they hope is a final victory over Mexico, Fawcett will continue to teach the game to her three daughters, Foudy will conduct soccer camps for young girls, and Hamm says she will now have more time to spend with her husband, American baseball star Nomar Garciaparra.