A forward who was the all-time leading goal scorer in women’s international soccer and played in four World Cups and two Olympic Games, Wambach played 255 full internationals for the United States between her national team debut in 2001 and her final game in 2015. In those games, she scored 184 goals, putting her 26 goals ahead of the previous international and U.S. National Team scoring leader, Mia Hamm. Her two most famous goals both came in overtime against Brazil, the game-winner in the 2004 Olympic final, and the stoppage-time equalizer in a 2011 World Cup quarterfinal that the United States eventually won. She also scored goals in the semifinals and final of the 2011 Women’s World Cup.
Wambach played in four Women’s World Cups, 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015, finally winning that title on her final try. She won gold medals in both Olympics in which she played, 2004 and 2012 (she missed the 2008 Olympics due to injury). She played 19 games in those four World Cups, scoring 14 goals, and 11 games in her two Olympics, scoring nine goals. Although she was no longer an automatic starter in 2015, she did play in all seven of the United States’ games in that World Cup, starting three of them and scoring one goal.
At 5-foot-11, Wambach was tall for a woman player, and very often was a target forward. Both of her most famous goals came on headers, after a corner kick by Kristine Lilly in 2004 and after a 40-yard cross from Megan Rapinoe in 2011.
Wambach’s off-the-field honors included being named the USSF women’s athlete of the year six times, in 2003, 2004, 2007, 2010, 2011 and 2012, the Concacaf female player of the year in 2014, and the FIFA world women’s player of the year in 2012. In 2013, she was named to the U.S. national women’s team all-time Best XI chosen by the USSF. She was chosen to the post-tournament all-star team at the 2011 Women’s World Cup.
Wambach was the first major international star developed by the Women’s United Soccer Association, in which she played in 2002 and 2003, both seasons for Washington. She later played in all three seasons of WPS, for Washington and magicJack, and the first two seasons of the NWSL, for Western New York. She was named those leagues’ postseason all-star teams three times, in the WUSA in 2003, in WPS in 2010 and in the NWSL in 2013 and won the 2003 WUSA title with Washington.