Megan Rapinoe Wins FIFA's Best Women's Player of the Year Award
Megan Rapinoe can add another accolade to her spectacular year: FIFA's Best Women's Player in the World.
The U.S. women's national team star was honored in Milan at FIFA's Best gala, taking home the top individual women's prize. She won it on the basis of her efforts at the Women's World Cup, where she won the golden boot, golden ball and led the U.S. to a second straight title and fourth overall.
Rapinoe edged teammate Alex Morgan and England fullback Lucy Bronze for the award. Bronze was recently named UEFA's Best Women's Player for her exploits with both England and Lyon.
FIFA's award belongs to Rapinoe, though, and it's easy to see why. She was a spark for the U.S. in France, taking on all critics–even those in the White House–absorbing the heat of the spotlight and responding with both her words and her actions on the field. With only one goal in the group stage–that coming in the lightning rod 13-0 rout of Thailand–she saved her top influence for the knockout stage. Rapinoe scored all four of the USA's goals in 2-1 wins over Spain (both on penalty kicks) and France in the round of 16 and quarterfinals, respectively, before being forced to miss the semifinal win over England with an injury.
She recovered in time to play in the final, where she scored the opening and eventual game-winning goal from the penalty spot in the 61st minute of the 2-0 win over the Netherlands.
Off the field, Rapinoe has been noted for her vocal leadership, covering everything from the U.S. women's national team's fight for equal pay and gender equity to human rights causes. On it, the 34-year-old still has plenty left in the tank, and she's been adamant that she wants to be part of the USA's Olympic team next summer (provided the Americans qualify). Should the USWNT win gold in Tokyo and Rapinoe continue to play a vital role, she could wind up a back-to-back winner, something accomplished by the last U.S. winner of the award, Carli Lloyd (2015-16).
Rapinoe joins Lloyd, recent National Soccer Hall of Fame inductee Abby Wambach and Mia Hamm as Americans to win FIFA's top individual honor. For Morgan, her runner-up finish marks the second time she's been in the top three, following her third-place finish in 2012.
Morgan and Rapinoe were among five U.S. players named to FIFPro's Women's World XI, along with Julie Ertz, Kelley O'Hara and Rose Lavelle.