She opted out of the NWSL's Challenge Cup tournament in a bubble in Utah last summer and the league's fall series. She also opted out of the national team's October camp.
She said part of her reasoning for the break was fear of COVID-19, but she was also exhausted from the whirlwind that came after the U.S. victory in the World Cup in France. Rapinoe earned FIFA Best Player and Ballon d'Or honors following her play in soccer's premier tournament.
The last time Rapinoe played for the national team was on March 11, when she scored in a 3-1 SheBelieves Cup victory over Japan.
The game was notable because the national team players, embroiled in a contentious discrimination lawsuit over equal pay with U.S. Soccer, wore warmup jerseys inside out in protest of the federation's controversial tactics in defending the suit. That ultimately led to the resignation of U.S. Soccer President Carlos Cordeiro.
The national team settled its dispute with the federation over unequal working conditions in December, leaving the pay dispute still unresolved.
Throughout her career, Rapinoe has been a vocal advocate for equal pay and other social justice issues, including LGBTQ rights. She sparred with President Donald Trump via Twitter during the World Cup and last year was involved in get-out-the-vote initiatives in support of President-elect Joe Biden.
She called last week's riot at the U.S. Capitol “very unsettling and scary.”
“I think the courage of the lawmakers to get back in there and continue their work, and the utter bottomlessness of some of these lawmakers to continue to incite violence and still call for overturning the election when the mandate’s been given by the United States and by the people of United States, is just absolutely insane," she said. "They should be held accountable.”
Rapinoe got emotional when she was asked about how she felt watching fellow NWSL players kneel and speak out against systemic racism during the Challenge Cup. In 2016, Rapinoe knelt in solidarity with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. U.S. Soccer reacted by prohibiting players from kneeling during the anthem, a rule that was rescinded last June.
“I have just a huge amount of pride and respect for so many people going through the journey and learning and growing, and feeling more comfortable speaking out about things,” she said. “What we saw through the summer and just through the pandemic, with the protests, hopefully a lot of people’s eyes are opened up, particularly my fellow white teammates.”
She praised U.S. Soccer for apologizing over the ban.
Rapinoe, 35, has scored 52 goals with 68 assists in 168 appearances with the national team since her first call-up in 2006. She scored on a penalty kick in the United States' victory over the Netherlands in the 2019 World Cup final.
During her break this summer, she hosted the HBO special “Seeing America,” which included U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and she released a memoir, “One Life.” In October, she and WNBA veteran Sue Bird announced their engagement.
Coach Vlatko Andonovski said Rapinoe has not disregarded her fitness during the layoff. He expects Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd, who hasn't played since last spring because of injury, to get minutes in a pair of exhibition games against Colombia later this month in Orlando.
“Megan and Carli have been doing a tremendous, tremendous job. Our high performance department, high performance coach, has been monitoring everything that they’re doing,” Andonovski said. “We have a pretty good idea of where they stand. In fact, both of them are a little bit ahead of what we expected them to be in January camp from the physical standpoint."
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FILE - In this July 7, 2019, file photo, United States' Megan Rapinoe scores her side's opening goal from the penalty shot during the Women's World Cup final soccer match against The Netherlands at the Stade de Lyon in Decines, outside Lyon, France. Rapinoe has returned to the U.S. national team after sitting out most of last year following the SheBelieves Cup tournament, joining the squad for its January training camp in Florida. (AP Photo/David Vincent, File)
Credit: David Vincent
Credit: David Vincent