(CNN) — She transcended her sport and a kiss with her wife after winning the World Cup even inspired a hashtag — #LoveWins.
So the announcement that Abby Wambach — the most prolific goalscorer in international soccer history — is to retire from the game, prompted an outpouring of tributes from vice presidents to NBA superstars.
Having scored 184 goals in 252 matches for the U.S. women’s team — more than any other male or female player in history — the 35-year-old Wambach will call time on her 15-year career after December’s meeting between the USWNT and China.
Joe Biden and Kobe Bryant were among the great and good to celebrate the striker’s incredible career — the highlight of which arrived earlier this year when Wambach was part of the United States squad which won the 2015 World Cup.
“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.
“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.”
Moments after the whistle blew on the USWNT’s memorable 5-2 triumph over Japan in July’s World Cup final, Wambach ran to the stadium’s edge and climbed into the stands to kiss her wife, Sarah Huffman.
For many fans, the pair’s tender embrace was the perfect tribute to the historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage across the nation more than a week ago. Wambach and Huffman were married in 2013 in Hawaii.
Her current national team coach, Jill Elis said Wambach had transcended football: “What she has done for women’s soccer and women’s sports overall with her amazing talents on the field and her personality off it has been inspiring to watch.
“I am just extremely happy that she could end her career with that elusive World Cup title and go out on top, right where she deserves to be.”
The Rochester, New York native appeared in four World Cup over a decorated career, where she won two Olympic gold medals, scoring 23 goals in the process.
The forward will be remembered for scoring 500 goals for her high school, club and country. Her most famous is arguably her equalizer in the dying moments the 2011 World Cup quarterfinal against Brazil. Her header sent the tie into penalties where the USWNT prevailed to booked their spot in the semis.
NBA great Kobe Bryant paid tribute to the 2012 World Player of the Year:
German football great Jürgen Klinsmann, who coaches the U.S. men’s team, thanked Wambach for all she had done for soccer in the U.S:
The only other American to be honored as World Player of the Year — Mia Hamm — applauded Wambach’s career:
The 2015 World Cup winning side were guests of honor Tuesday at the White House at a gala hosted by President Barack Obama and his right-hand man Biden add his praise for Wambach:
Meanwhile Wambach’s U.S. teammate Hope Solo was left heartbroken by the retirement announcement: