28 November 2019

Thanksgiving special: The year of US soccer star Megan Rapinoe

Given it is Thanksgiving, one of the biggest days of the year in the United States, we thought we would pay tribute to possibly the country's biggest star of women's sport in 2019.

It has been quite the year for soccer galactico Megan Rapinoe.

A World Cup winner, a golden ball, a golden boot, and an argument with the US president, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. 

So, here are some of the highlights from the 12 months that have made Rapinoe an international sensation.

March: The US team sue US Soccer Federation for gender discrimination

Rapinoe has been a key voice in the US team's fight for equal pay (PA Images)

In March, the US team filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against the US Soccer Federation.

They argued that if their male counterparts were as successful as the women had been they would have been paid two thirds more than them.

There has not been a lot of movement on either side of the argument, but Rapinoe has said that the team are willing to agree a settlement to keep the case out of court.

A court date has been scheduled for May and, if a trial goes ahead, it may impact upon the side's preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

June: Rapinoe and Donald Trump argue

Donald Trump unleashed one of his infamous Twitter tirades on Rapinoe (PA Images)

Rapinoe has openly criticised Donald Trump for his views on the LGBTQ+ community as the openly gay player advocates for their rights.

The midfielder said in June if her team won the World Cup she would not go to the White House.

In one of his infamous tirades on Twitter, Trump responded: "I am a big fan of the American team, and women’s soccer, but Megan should WIN first before she TALKS! Finish the job! We haven’t yet invited Megan or the team, but I am now inviting the TEAM, win or lose. 

"Megan should never disrespect our Country, the White House, or our Flag, especially since so much has been done for her & the team. Be proud of the Flag that you wear. The USA is doing GREAT!"

But Rapinoe refused to back down and hit back at the 73-year-old.

She said: “I would encourage my teammates to think hard about lending that platform or having that co-opted by an administration that doesn’t feel the same way and doesn’t fight for the same things we fight for.”

It's safe to say that Trump and Rapinoe won't be best friends for the foreseeable future.

July: US team wins the World Cup and Rapinoe wins the golden boot

Rapinoe was joint top scorer at the World Cup (PA Images)

Trump had to eat his words when Rapinoe and her team won the World Cup in July. 

The star also picked up the golden ball for best player and the golden boot for top scorer, as she played less minutes than Alex Morgan and Ellen White who also bagged six goals at the tournament.

To make the win that much sweeter, Rapinoe is now the oldest woman to score in a World Cup final, a game in which she won player of the match.

It was the US team's second successive World Cup triumph and they are hoping to replicate the same result with the Olympic gold medal in Tokyo next year.

September: Rapinoe wins FIFA's Player of the Year

FIFA President Gianni Infantino awarding Rapinoe with the Women's Player of the Year (PA Images)

Rapinoe fought off team mate Alex Morgan and England's Lucy Bronze to win FIFA's Women's Player of the Year. 

But the win itself wasn't the talk of the night as her inspiring speech is what caught everyone's attention.

On stage, she said: "If everybody was as outraged about homophobia as the LGBTQ players, if everybody was as outraged about equal pay or the lack thereof, or the lack of investment in the women's game, other than just women, that would be the most inspiring thing to me.

"We have such an incredible opportunity being professional footballers, so much success, an incredible platform. 

"I ask everyone here, lend your platform to other people, share your success. We have a unique opportunity to use this game to actually change the world for better. I hope you take that to heart, do something, we have incredible power in this room."

October: Rapinoe wins the Women's Sport Foundation Team Sportswoman of the Year

Rapinoe wins yet another accolade (Women's Sport Foundation)

The midfielder added another trophy to her cabinet when the Women's Sport Foundation awarded her with Team Sportwoman of the Year in October.

Rapinoe had a humble moment and admitted that, especially in this late stage in her career, for her to be winning an abundance of awards was 'awkward'.

The star said: "I’m certainly not up here by myself. I have to shout out to the [US] team. It’s actually kind of uncomfortable. I’m so much older in my career and to be the first time receiving all these awards, I’m really not that comfortable as I seem.

"It’s actually quite awkward. I feel that all of my success is due to the team and I am just one part of that. The team does an incredible job to set all of us up to do the very best that we can so thank you so much to my team and the coaching staff."

October: NWSL dream dashed

The US star has never won the NSWL (PA Images)

One tournament the star has never won is the National Soccer Women's League.

Last year, she reached the semi-final with her club Reign FC and was hoping to get the NWSL demon off her back this season, but it was not meant to be.

Reign lost 4-1 to North Carolina Courage at the semi-final stage yet again in heart-breaking circumstances.

Courage scored in the 88th minute to put them 1-0 up, but Rapinoe's hopes were raised in the 93rd when her team equalised to push the match to extra time.

Courage scored three more goals in extra-time and Rapinoe's NWSL title dream was dashed for another season.

October: Ballon d'Or nomination 

Rapinoe celebrating a successful 2019 for the national team with her teammates (PA Images)

Yep, you guessed it. Rapinoe has been nominated for yet another award, the Ballon d'Or. 

She is nominated alongside 19 other players, including Lucy Bronze, Ellen White and Alex Morgan.

The awards are taking place on December 2 in Paris, so will this be the perfect end to a stellar year for Rapinoe?

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox