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US Soccer legend Abby Wambach announces retirement

Costa Rica v United States

PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 16: Abby Wambach #20 of the United States claps following an attendance announcement in the second half against Costa Rica during the match at Heinz Field on August 16, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

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The all-time leading goalscorer in world soccer is hanging up the cleats.

USWNT superstar Abby Wambach announced her retirement from the game on Tuesday. She will be with the women’s team for all four of its December matches, with her final one coming against China PR on December 16 in New Orleans, the last of the 10-game Victory Tour following the 2015 World Cup win.

“After much deliberation and talking with my friends, family, teammates and our coaching staff, I’ve decided to finally bring my soccer career to an end,” Wambach said in a statement released by U.S. Soccer. “While we still have more work to do for women’s soccer, after bringing the World Cup back to the United States this summer, I’m feeling extremely optimistic about the future of our sport. It’s been an amazing, wonderful ride and I can’t wait to see what the next chapter of my life brings.”

Wambach, now 35, began her United States national team career at just 21 years old against Germany in 2001, amassing 252 caps and scoring 184 goals for her country, far and away the most in international soccer history, men’s or women’s.

However, as any pro athlete eventually faces, her production was in a slow but noticeable decline, forcing USWNT head coach Jill Ellis to make a difficult but necessary decision, relegating Wambach to substitute duty for much of the 2015 World Cup. With the 2016 Olympics nearing, Wambach’s retirement will allow the U.S. women’s team to progress without facing a similar situation.

The Rochester, NY native was a fan favorite throughout her career, and became a pioneer in the sport both on and off the field. She announced before the World Cup that it would be her last, signing off from the sport’s biggest competition with an emotional farewell video before the final.

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