Abby Wambach is a professional soccer player who has played with the Washington Freedom team, Team magicJack, Western New York Flash, and the U.S. Women's National Team. She was also a member of the United States' team during the 2004 and 2012 Olympic Games. In July of 2015, Wambach capped off her historic career when she and her teammates won the Women's World Cup.
Mary Abigail Wambach was born on June 2, 1980, in Rochester, New York. She was the youngest of seven children, many of whom played competitive sports well into their college years. In addition to Wambach, her parents, Pete and Judy, also had four active sons and two daughters. At the age of four, she joined her first girls' soccer team. She scored more than 25 goals in the first three games of the season, and when she was nine the league transferred her to a boys team, where she remained a challenge on the field.
Wambach played soccer and basketball in high school, starting all four varsity years for the Our Lady of Mercy High School basketball team. She earned All-Greater Rochester honors in three consecutive years in both sports. In 1997 she was named the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA)/Umbro National Player of the Year. When it came time to choose a college, Wambach was in demand for both her soccer and basketball skills. She considered offers from University of California at Los Angeles, North Carolina State, and George Mason University before choosing to play soccer for the University of Florida.
During her four years playing with the Gators, Wambach broke multiple school records and won numerous awards. She was named SEC Player of the Year twice and was a First-Team NSCAA All-American. When she concluded her college career, she held University of Florida records for assists (49), game-winning goals (24), goals (96), hat tricks (10), and points (241).
Becoming a Professional and an Olympian
Before graduating college, Wambach had a conversation with Jerry Smith, the coach of the U-21 National Team, that made her believe she could eventually play for the Women's National Team. She decided not to finish school and dedicated her time to training hard. In 2002 she tried out for the Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA) and was the second player chosen overall. She enthusiastically joined the Washington Freedom team.
Mia Hamm, a popular and talented professional, was also a member of the Washington Freedom team, though she was out with an injury at the start of that season. Under Hamm's guidance, Wambach learned all that she could about the sport and was named WUSA Rookie of the Year. By 2003 she and Hamm had become a dynamic duo, scoring 66 combined goals in a single season. Together, they were named members of the Women's National Team. They led their team to a third-place finish at the Women's World Cup. At the end of the year, Wambach was named Player of the Year. She would receive this award multiple times throughout her career.
The following year, she was named to the women's soccer Olympic team. In Athens she scored four goals and recorded one assist as the United States went on to defeat Brazil 2-1. Wambach and her teammates left Athens with gold medals around their necks. Upon returning to the States, Wambach continued her success on the field. She scored 30 goals and recorded 31 assists that season. Her 75 points at the end of the season was the second-highest in league history.
Throughout 2005 and 2006 Wambach started nearly every game for the Women's National Team. She was consistent on the field, rarely having a bad game. By 2007 she had scored enough goals to put her in fifth place on the league's list of most goals scored. She expected to score her 100th goal in 2008 at the Beijing Olympics. Then disaster struck in the last game the National Team played before traveling to China. After a brutal collision on the field, Wambach was escorted off with a broken tibia and fibula.
Once recuperated, Wambach resumed her spot on the National Team and also became a member of the Women's Professional Soccer League, which formed in 2009. She was once again named to the Washington Freedom team. She'd remain a member until the team was sold in 2011 and became Team magicJack. In July of 2009, while playing with the National Team, Wambach scored her 100th international goal in her hometown of Rochester, New York.
London Olympic Games
Although Wambach was somewhat off her game between 2010 and 2011, she turned her luck around during the 2011 World Cup. She scored three goals in the series and inspired her teammates to play hard. The U.S. team lost to Japan in the final round, but Wambach was hopeful that the team's successful play would continue throughout the next year as they prepared for the 2012 London Olympics.
In February of 2012, Wambach learned she would be the Olympic team's cocaptain when the players reached London. During competition, Wambach was punched in the eye by Columbian player Lady Andrade, who claimed that the American players had started the altercation. Wambach continued to play with a black eye, while Andrade was suspended for two games. The United States went on to win the final match, and Wambach received her second gold medal. However, there was still one title she wanted to claim: World Cup Champion.
Path to the World Cup
2013 proved an important year for Wambach. She passed Mia Hamm's career number of goals, and she played her first season with her new team, the Western New York Flash. Additionally, she married her longtime girlfriend, Sarah Huffman.
Wambach played another season with the Flash. But in early 2015, she announced that she would leave the team to prepare for the summer's World Cup in Canada. In a statement released by the Flash, Wambach said, "At this stage of my career, I know what I need to prepare mentally and physically for this summer. My sole focus is to help bring a World Cup back to the U.S."
Wambach took on a different role during the 2015 World Cup. Instead of being a leader on the field, the star player became a leader from the sidelines. Following group play, Wambach sat on the bench during much of the remaining games, acting as a substitute in the later stages of play. As players like Carli Lloyd and Hope Solo helped propel the team to the final round, Wambach became the team's most vocal supporter.
Despite being the leading international goal scorer of all-time among men and women players and winning two Olympic gold medals, this World Cup meant a lot to Wambach. It was expected to be the final World Cup appearance of her career, and the U.S. team's win would be a fitting ending to her prestigious international career. Finally, on July 5, 2015, the U.S. team faced off against Japan once again in the final game of the World Cup. This time, the United States defeated Japan in a 5-2 victory. Lloyd, the star of the game with 3 goals in the first 13 minutes of play, gave her team captain's armband to Wambach when she came in during the final minutes of the game. The gesture showed how much Wambach meant to the team. According to the New York Times, Wambach told reporters after the game, "Finally, I'm a world champion."
Addresses: Home--Hermosa Beach, California. Web site--abbywambach.com.
Female Athlete of the Year, U.S. Soccer, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2013; gold medal, Olympic Games, 2004, 2012; FIFA Women's World Player of the Year, 2012; inducted into the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame, 2012.
- "Abby Wambach," Team USA, http://soccer.teamusa.org/athletes/Abby-Wambach (March 12, 2012).
- "Abby Wambach Decides Not to Play in 2015 NWSL Season," Official Website of the WNY Flash, http://wnyflash.com/news/?article_id=188 (July 6, 2015).
- "Abby Wambach Discusses her Marriage," USA Today, http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/soccer/2014/03/30/abby-wambach-marriage-uswnt/7081343/ (September 16, 2014).
- "Abby Wambach Says Team Mentality is Key to USA's Success," USA Today, http://www.usatoday.com/sports/soccer/worldcup/2011-07-14-abby-wambach-usa-japan_n.htm (March 12, 2012).
- "Abby Wambach, U.S. World Cup Team's Soul, Soars Despite a Lesser Role,"New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/06/sports/soccer/usa-world-cup-teams-soul-abby-wambach-soars-despite-a-lesser-role.html?_r=0 (July 6, 2015).
- "About," Official Site of Abby Wambach, http://abbywambach.com/about (July 6, 2015).
- "Bio," Gater Zone, http://www.gatorzone.com/soccer/bios.php?year=2001&bio=wambach.html (March 12, 2012).
- "Bio," Official Site of Abby Wambach, http://abbywambach.com/wambach/about (March 12, 2012).
- "Gabby Abby Wambach Takes Role as on US Co-Captain," ESPN, http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/wire?section=oly&id=7607296 (March 12, 2012).
- "Hall of Fame," Gator F Club, http://www.gatorfclub.org/hof (March 12, 2012).
- "Player Bio," U.S. Soccer, http://www.ussoccer.com/teams/wnt/w/abby-wambach.aspx (March 12, 2012).
- "Thank You Abby Wambach, Christie Rampone and Shannon Boxx," SBNation, http://www.sbnation.com/soccer/2015/7/6/8896325/abby-wambach-usa-japan-2015-world-cup-final-christie-rampone-shannon-boxx (July 6, 2015).
- "'They were hitting US': Colombian women's soccer player blames American team's dirty play after she's SUSPENDED for giving Abby Wambach a black eye," Daily Mail http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2180632/London-Olympics-2012-Soccer-star-Abby-Wambach-gets-sucker-punched-eye-Colombian-opponent-Lady-Andrade-suspended.html (March 12, 2012).
- "Wambach Eager to Showcase Soccer Skills on Olympic Stage," USA Today, http://www.usatoday.com/sports/olympics/athens/soccer/2004-08-07-wambach_x.htm (March 28, 2012).
- "Women's World Cup: USA 5-2 Japan," BBC, http://www.bbc.com/sport/0/football/33085994 (July 6, 2015).