NWSL: Abby Wambach Won’t Play during 2015 Season


Abby Wambach, longtime face of American soccer, has decided that she won’t be playing for the Western New York Flash in the 2015 season, joining Canadian Sophie Schmidt and possibly all of the allocated Mexican players in forgoing NWSL play to pursue the World Cup ambitions of their respective national teams.

It can’t be overstated that no one is in a better position to know what her body can or can’t take. And I think it’s become abundantly clear that her days of logging 90 minutes per game are over, for club or country. Barring bionic replacement surgery (and a miraculous recovery), I think it’s safe to assume that Wambach will either bash at opponents in the first half, or come on later in the second half to torch exhausted defenses.

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Her dedication to winning the World Cup has never been in question, but her physical ability to keep up with the increasingly fitter and faster elite players in the world has come under greater scrutiny. I have no doubt that, were I in her position, I would have made the exact same choice to forego club play in order to save myself for my last shot at a World Cup.

But if the 99ers were responsible for supporting the long-defunct WUSA, then the NWSL was built on the backs of the 2011 US World Cup team. And as one of the leaders of this corps of players, is this a shirking of her responsibility to this league and to the development of American women’s soccer?

I would be remiss not to mention that Sophie Schmidt is doing the same thing, only without the excuse of 3 World Cups and 2 deep Olympic runs already played (and all the miles on her body that come with that level of success). To be fair, the Canadian players obviously do not have the same level of dedication to the US league, but it is fascinating how few people appeared to question Schmidt’s decision.

Wambach is going to receive a lot of blow-back. It’s a matter of roles, to be sure, as the longtime emblem of American soccer is skipping out on what may well be her last year as a professional footballer, but let’s not pretend that we don’t know that Wambach’s life’s ambition is to win a World Cup, not necessarily to create a sustainable American women’s soccer league.

All that is left are questions. Did the Flash know about this before they traded away Carli Lloyd? Will this result in other veteran players also electing not to play in the NWSL?

Is there a way for Wambach to be an ambassador for this league and for women’s soccer in America if she’s not actively participating with any club?

What are the implications of the limited fitness that she seems to be admitting to by not playing in 2015?

Is the burden of responsibility somehow greater for those national team players who do return to their clubs (a.k.a. everyone else)?

It’s also worth considering whether or not this is some sort of power move, and if greater influence lies with Abby than there did with former standard bearer Mia Hamm. Who is truly next in line, if this is Wambach’s swan song? If it is Alex Morgan, how does she compare as a visible leader, and does she evince any of the qualities of any of her predecessors (Akers, Hamm, Wambach)?

The US will play New Zealand on April 4 in St. Louis, MO, and the 3:30pm EST kickoff will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1.

Next: WNY Flash Announce Preseason Roster