The second season of USA's National Women's Soccer League commences this weekend and one of the headline acts will again be record-breaking striker Abby Wambach.
The 2012 FIFA Women's World Player of the Year has a bulging resume capped by Olympic gold medals and the title of the world's leading international goalscorer.
Wambach talks to FIFA.com about next year's FIFA Women's World Cup™, the NWSL, breaking records and a particular tweet from United States President Barack Obama.
FIFA.com: In our interview last year in Zurich you were pretty excited about the new league in the US. How would you summarise the first season?
Abby Wambach: I think the first season of the NWSL has been a success. In the years past we kind of get ahead of ourselves in terms of how much money the franchises were spending, not only on players salaries but expenses in terms of stadiums and costs and salaries. Now we are kind of starting from the base. Some may say it looks too low. In some ways I agree, but we have some way to grow and I think that it is important for any professional league especially in the United States with women. We need to grow from wherever we start rather than decrease right here. I think all in all I am super proud of not only my team but all the players that participated because hopefully this league will last forever.
Were your expectations fulfilled? Do you think that changes need to be done?
I think year by year there is going to be definitely changes. I know that US Soccer is committed to creating one of the best leagues in the world. In order to do so you have to learn from your mistakes. Over time the facilities are going to be better, the contracts and the salaries will get better and the coaching as well. Everything across the board will keep getting better as long as people keep coming and watching. That is something I look forward to seeing. We know that in the United States the MLS has proven to be particularly successful in terms of having women’s teams impact. The Portland Timbers bought the Portland Thorns. They started this team and they get 15,000 people for a women’s game. That is just nothing but good news. I am excited to see what can happen in the future with the NWSL.
In your collection of titles there is only one thing missing: the FIFA Women’s World Cup title. I guess Canada 2015 will be pretty important for you?
I am excited. I’m also excited to watch the men’s World Cup this summer in Brazil. It’s going to be fun. Some footballers may admit this or not, but it’s stressful playing and competing in a World Cup. It’s fun to actually just watch and be a spectator. The 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada will be amazing. It’s close to home and Canada are a big rival of ours, which is exciting. I’ve never won one, so I’m pretty determined and hope that the chips fall in our favour. You never know. There is so much preparation that goes into it and there are so many things that you can’t control. I’m really excited to give it a try.
Who is your favourite for the title in Brazil?
I have to stick with my country. I think we got a tough draw, but if we can get some results maybe we can get through to the next round. The World Cup is so special. It’s a bunch of different countries, people from different worlds who come together and have this similarity, even if you don’t speak the same language. We all speak soccer and we all speak football. That is what’s so special about the World Cup in general, people will be in Brazil from all the different countries around the world. It will be amazing to see it happen, to see the games, how they finish and who ends up being on the top podium. You never know what will happen and that keep the folks of the United States hopeful.
You broke Mia Hamm’s world record for international goals last year. How would you describe that moment?
It was definitely a special moment not only for me, but also for my team. I don’t know what Mia would say, but after scoring so many goals you reflect and you wonder: how did that happen? It didn’t just happen though, it’s been a long time coming and it took a lot of effort not only by myself, my team has to put me in a position to score goals. Not only do they have to be skilled in their position and what they are doing, they also have to believe not just in me but in themselves. That’s what is special about this team. I’m not surprised that my team-mates gift me with so many goals, that’s really how it should be labelled. At the end of the day I am the one putting the ball in the net, but there are so many things that happen before a goal, so many things that have to be perfect. I’m not one of those players that beat you one-on-one, I’m a player that puts herself in the box to finish as many chances as she gets. Any kind of world record like this has to be given to my team-mates, they are the ones that actually made it happen.
President Barack Obama sent a Tweet after you broke Mia’s record (Congratulations @AbbyWambach, the greatest goal scorer in the history of women's soccer—you've made your country proud. #ChasingAbby). Were you impressed?
I was impressed for sure. I think his kids play soccer! To be recognised by the president is a big deal. But more than that, also all the phone calls I got and the text messages from Mia which were congratulatory and proud. Those were the things that really matter. I’ve never met our president, so that had a cool factor to it. I definitely appreciated the friends and family members that contacted me right after that actual goal.
How important was Mia Hamm for your career? Does she have a significant meaning for you?
You can’t really explain how important she has been through the duration of my career. I was on her team at the beginning. She taught me a lot, whether it was direct or indirect teaching. I don’t know if she even knew doing it. She really dedicated her life to the team. I would say the same for me. My life is dedicated to this team and the success of this team. She taught me how to act on the field, how to act off the field, how I wanted to. She was my idol, the person I looked up to, my mentor. I saw what she did and I liked what I saw. I wanted to replicate as much as I possibly could and adding my own flair. I want to approach the game. She is not only a friend and fantastic team-mate. She is somebody that pioneered the sport. I am lucky to be able to call her a friend.
Will Abby Wambach remain in women’s football after she finished her active career?
It will be nearly impossible to keep me from the game when I hang up my boots. I have dedicated so many minutes and hours pushing the game in a positive direction. I think part of my legacy is not only in terms of what I have done on the field. Part of my legacy that I want to leave is the things that I can do when I am done playing and the kind of progress we continue to make on the women’s side. There is still so much room to grow in different countries around the world, even in our own country. I want to stay involved. I don’t know if I would even be good at coaching, I think I talk way too much for that. I want to be involved in some level. I know that US Soccer is committed to the women’s soccer movement in the United States. I would like to be a part of it in any capacity that I possibly could.