USWNT Star Ali Krieger Announces Her Retirement

The Olympian, two-time World Cup champion, and mom of two tells Glamour she's preparing for her last season with Gotham FC. 
Ali Krieger
Devon Cafaro/Gotham FC

There’s not a lot US Women’s National Team defender Ali Krieger hasn’t done. She’s spent her career helping to build a sustainable women’s pro soccer league in the US, brought home two World Cup championships, won one of the most important equal pay lawsuits in a generation, and helped carve a path for moms in sports all while serving looks as one half of soccer’s chicest power couple with wife Ashlyn Harris. 

So it's without a trace of regret that she's announcing her retirement at the end of the 2023 NWSL season, news that she shares exclusively with Glamour. When I connect with her to talk about this—and all that she's accomplished—she beams and says, “We have to be happy.”

Women’s sports are rarely just about the game, and Krieger’s career has been no exception. To focus exclusively on a player’s legacy on the field is a luxury that comes with equality—which is still a long way off for most women in sports as they face huge gaps in pay, investment, and media coverage. Even for the biggest stars, the work on the field is often about proving women’s worth off of it. “Before it was that women athletes had to just be excited to be here and grateful for having a soccer ball to play with,” Krieger says. “We’re not settling anymore for just being grateful. For me and my generation of players, we've had to fight for every little thing in order to have a voice. We fought for something bigger than ourselves.” 

Devon Cafaro/Gotham FC

When Krieger graduated from Penn State University, there was no professional women’s soccer league in the United States. Now the NWSL, in which Krieger plays for Gotham FC (along with fellow USWNT icons Kelley O’Hara, Allie Long, Kirstie Mewis, Midge Purce, and Imani Dorsey), is one of the most exciting leagues in women’s sports. “If you're not involved now, you're definitely going to be missing out,” Krieger says. “The players are the league, and we do have the power—to have this league moving in the direction that it's going is because of us.”

It’s fitting then that Krieger is ending her playing career with the 2023 NWSL season. “I really value club soccer, and the NWSL Championship is the only thing I haven't won,” she says. “I'm just throwing it out there into the universe and making that a goal for me and the team this year.”

Here, Krieger opens up about her career highlights, fighting for equality as an elite athlete, and the importance of supporting moms in sports. 

Glamour: The landscape for women’s professional sports, particularly soccer, has evolved so much over the course of your career—from seeing the establishment of a pro league to winning the fight for equal pay at the national level. What’s it been like to fight for those things while also staying at the top of your game as an elite athlete? 

Ali Krieger: It definitely builds character. It builds that type of grit that I think a lot of players need in order to stay at this level for so long. You want to win everything. That has been our mentality all along, to fight for what we deserve while staying competitive in order to stay here for people to listen and give you a chance. It gives me purpose to want to fight for more so that the younger players have a little bit of an easier road than what we had. That's the job and the role of a veteran player, to try to speak up on these issues. It's hard work, but it's really rewarding in the end to know that you've made a difference and created a safe space for people to do what they love to do and just have fun.

This league is going in such an incredible direction that people should want to be a part of it. And that's why it's so exciting to create this safe environment where everyone feels valued, appreciated, and that they deserve to be paid for what they do and for the work that they put in.

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As you start to think about legacy and passing the baton to this next generation of players, now that the National Team has won equal pay, what do you think is the next generation's fight? 

I think continuing the fight for equal pay, because I still don't think it's where we want it to be. That will always be a fight. But also, making sure they continue to have a space where they're able to speak up for themselves and for their teammates and for what's right. It's about creating a safe space for players to really thrive and be able to show up to work and do what they love to do and not have to worry about how they're being treated in the workplace.

We're starting to see a lot more moms in sports, which is awesome. What’s it been like to be part of the generation fighting every day to prove to the industry that women can in fact do both?

It's been incredible, and then exhausting all at the same time. I'm really, really happy to be a mom. I'm so proud, and this is probably the toughest job I've ever had, but the most fun. I don't even remember what I did without kids. Like, what was I doing? Just sitting on my couch and watching Netflix and hanging out?

You start to really live in this state of exhaustion. Even though I maybe only slept five or six hours that night, I still have to wake up, get the kids ready to go to daycare, and then I have to perform well at my job. I have to be physically ready to go and mentally and emotionally in it, to help the team be successful. 

It's really been a difficult job, but I can't be happier with what we've built and the family that we have. They bring me so much joy because no matter what happens that day, if I'm at soccer and something doesn't go right, I come home and forget about it because they're the most important thing. It's been really helpful, mentally and emotionally, at the end of my career to have that, because usually I'd be in my own head and I'd be so hard on myself.

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I’ve heard that from so many women in sports who have kids—that being a mom makes you a better athlete. 

Before I'd be thinking about that one mistake that I made, but actually that doesn't really matter as much as making sure I'm there 100% for my kids and have a smile on my face when I come home. It's about finding the balance of making sure I make time for myself and still put myself as a priority in order to be happy and healthy. I need to be 100% for my kids when I walk through that door every day. I'm still trying to find that balance, but that's the key for me in order to be successful at my job but also be a really good mom.

Moms in sports have historically been so rare—not for lack of desire or capability but for lack of support. How has that looked for you as a mom?

For [my wife Ashlyn Harris] and I, it's been extremely difficult. I do think having more moms in the league encourages everyone to feel like they can be themselves and live their authentic life however they choose.

Gotham FC does a tremendous job of making us feel comfortable and confident that we can have help around at all times. My mom and our nanny for our kids, they're a part of the Gotham family. We really feel that. I'm not sure every club does that. They also pay for everything for us that has to do with the kids and childcare, so it's been really great to not have to think about that because you actually get to pay attention to your job and do your job well. 

Having that support within the club system is really, really important to making players feel like, if they decide to have kids, they're fully able to do that. That it's not going to deter them from their work, and that they have all of the support in the world to really thrive. Because I think you can do both. You can be a tremendous mom but also be a professional athlete and be damn good at what you do.

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Your wife Ashlyn is now the creative director for Gotham FC after retiring from her playing career. What’s next for you after your final season as a player?

I've tried to perfect this game, and I want to give back and make sure the women's game is headed into the direction that we've always envisioned. So I definitely want to stay in the game and impact it off the field. 

I also want to just take time for myself. I haven't stopped since I began playing soccer and haven't focused on sitting and really reflecting on my career. I think I'm going to just take some time with my family and just enjoy a little bit after this is done. 

What would make this last season with Gotham a success for you?

Obviously winning a championship, but I think the success also is about building good relationships with my teammates and staff. I always want to be remembered as a good person, a good teammate, and somebody who can leave the game better than where I found it. And I want to continue to create a safe space for people to just feel like themselves. Because that's how you get the best out of people—when they're themselves.

Macaela MacKenzie is the author of Money, Power, Respect: How Women in Sports Are Shaping the Future of Feminism, out June 27. Preorder your copy here.