Abby Wambach has been known to describe herself as a “goofball,” but she leaves that laid-back side of her personality on the sidelines come game time. In six years, she has established herself as the most formidable offensive player on the U.S. Women’s National Team, dominant in the air and all but unstoppable on the ground.
Abby has attracted attention on the soccer field since early childhood. Growing up in Rochester, NY, she played in her first youth league at age four, and was transferred from the girls’ to the boys’ team after scoring 27 goals in three games. The youngest of seven children, Abby felt right at home with the boys’ team, since she spent her childhood roughhousing with her four older brothers.
After playing soccer and basketball in high school, Abby focused on soccer at the University of Florida. She was named All-SEC for four straight seasons, conference Player of the Year twice, and a First-Team NSCAA All-American, in addition to leading the Gators to the NCAA Final Four in her senior season. She set school career records for goals (96), assists (49), points (241), game-winning goals (24), and hat tricks (10).
Also in 2001, she caught the eye of U-21 National Team coach Jerry Smith (husband of her former WNT teammate, Brandi Chastain), who convinced her that, with a lot of hard work, she could earn a spot on the senior national team. She began training with a new sense of purpose, and made her WNT debut at that year’s Nike U.S. Women’s Cup.
In 2002, she was the second player taken in the WUSA draft and became Mia Hamm’s teammate on the Washington Freedom. With Mia as mentor, Abby polished her physical skills and sharpened her ability to read the game. Just as importantly, she learned how to stay focused on the game while being targeted by opponents for whom the only way to stop her was to knock her down, as well as to constantly strive to improve.
By 2003, Abby and Mia were the WUSA’s most lethal scoring tandem, combining for 66 points as the Freedom stormed to the league title. National Team coach April Heinrichs was quick to take advantage of the pair’s chemistry. Abby started nine of her 14 WNT games that year, including all five Women’s World Cup matches in which she helped the U.S. to a third place finish. After the World Cup, Abby was named U.S. Soccer’s Female Athlete of the Year for 2003. The award capped a stellar year that also included a WUSA Founder’s Cup Championship with the Washington Freedom, a WUSA scoring championship (shared with Freedom and WNT teammate Mia Hamm), and MVP honors in the Founder’s Cup final.
In 2004, Wambach had one of the most prolific seasons in U.S. Women’s National Team history. At the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, Abby started all five matches that she played, scoring four goals with one assist. The U.S. defeated Brazil 2-1 on Abby’s header in extra time to win the gold medal. During 2004, Abby scored 31 goals in 30 matches, making her only the fourth U.S. player to record double figures in goals and assists in a calendar year. Her 75 points on the year mark the second highest point total in U.S. history, surpassed only by Michelle Akers in 1991. For her efforts, Abby was named the 2004 U.S. Soccer Female Athlete of the Year for the second year in a row and finished fourth in the voting for the 2004 FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year.
Abby started all eight games in which she played in 2005, tallying four goals and five assists. In 2006, she led the U.S. in scoring with 17 goals and 8 assists. Abby recorded her 50th career goal in only her 64th cap, making her the second-fastest player in U.S. history to reach 50 goals. At the CONCACAF Qualifying Tournament, she scored both goals in the U.S. team’s 2-0 win over Mexico, qualifying the U.S. for the 2007 Women’s World Cup. Once again, Abby capped off another impressive year by finishing fourth in the voting for FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year.
In 2007, Abby moved into fifth place on the all-time U.S. goal scorer list. Heading into the World Cup, Abby led the U.S. in scoring with 11 goals and 3 assists. In the 2007 World Cup, she scored 6 goals in six matches, despite receiving 11 stitches to her head after colliding with a North Korean player in the first game of the tournament. In the quarterfinal match against England, Abby reached the 100 cap milestone. The U.S. finished third in the 2007 World Cup.
The 2008 season began with much promise for Abby. In 22 games, she notched 13 goals and 10 assists, good for 36 points. In addition, Abby scored her 99th career goal and seemed poised to reach 100 career goals at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. However, in the U.S. team’s final match before the Olympics, Abby collided with a Brazilian player, fracturing her tibia and fibula. Unfortunately, this injury knocked Abby out of the Olympics.
After recovering from her injury, Abby is back with the U.S. National Team and rejoined the Washington Freedom in the newly created Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) league. One year and three days after breaking her leg in the final U.S. tune-up game before the Olympics, Abby scored her 100th international goal in the 1-0 U.S. win over Canada on July 19, 2009 in her hometown of Rochester, N.Y. Abby now stands as the fifth U.S. player and ninth female player in world history to notch 100 career international goals. She holds the best goals per game ratio in U.S. soccer history.
When not playing soccer, Abby unwinds by playing video games, listening to music and reading. She likes mountain biking and camping, and would someday like to hike the Appalachian Trail.