Megan Rapinoe is one of the most talked footballers on the planet right now.
The 34-year-old shone at this summer's Women's World Cup in France, winning the trophy for the second time and emerging as the star of the tournament after taking home both the Golden Boot and Golden Ball awards as top scorer and best player respectively.
Off the pitch, Rapinoe has continued to fight the fight for equality, recognition and inclusion, not just for herself, but for all, and is increasingly becoming a voice for those struggling to be heard.
University of Portland
Having grown up in California and spent her formative years playing for Elk Grove Pride, Rapinoe, along with twin sister Rachael, was recruited to play soccer at the University of Portland, turning out for Portland Pilots in NCAA action between 2005 and 2008.
There, Rapinoe was a teammate of future Canadian legend Christine Sinclair and together they won the NCAA Divison I Championship in 2005. She was a star at Portland, but twice suffered season-ending ACL injuries in 2006 and 2007.
Rapinoe made her senior USWNT debut against Republic of Ireland in the summer of 2006. Her first two goals at this level came a few months later in a friendly against Taiwan, coming off the bench to score a brace in the closing stages of a 10-0 American win.
Due to her ACL injuries, Rapinoe didn't actually play for the national team at all in 2007 or 2008 and was therefore forced to miss the 2007 World Cup and 2008 Olympics, both held in China.
Return From Injury & Number 15
Rapinoe had begun to re-establish herself in the USWNT setup by 2009 and 2010, by now wearing her now customary number 15 shirt. Above, she can be seen in action against Italy in 2010.
First World Cup
2011 was a busy year for Rapinoe. Upon leaving the college scene in 2008, she had been chosen second overall by Chicago Red Stars in the 2009 WPS draft. But 2011 also saw her play for Philadelphia Independence, magicJack and Sydney FC at club level, as well as represent the United States at her first World Cup at the age of 25.
Rapinoe wasn't a regular starter at the tournament, but she did play at least some part in all seven games as the USWNT lost to Japan in the final, scoring in a group stage win against Colombia. She did actually start the final itself.
Having missed out because of injury when the USWNT won Olympic gold in 2008, Rapinoe got her chance to go the Games for first time four years later in London, where the Americans won gold again, beating Japan in a reversal of the 2011 World Cup final.
Rapinoe also scored twice in a famous 4-3 thriller of a semi-final against Canada, a game in which ex-college teammate Sinclair scored a hat-trick for the Canadians.
Moving to Europe
Rapinoe's club career took her to Europe in early 2013 when she joined Lyon, signing a deal that paid her a reported €11,000 a month, a huge playing wage in the women's game.
Within a few months of arriving in France, Rapinoe played in the 2013 Women's Champions League final against Wolfsburg. She was on the losing side, but still finished her time at Lyon with Division 1 and Coupe de France honours.
Making Home in Seattle
Having been allocated to Seattle Reign (these days simply Reign FC) when the NWSL era began, Rapinoe initially linked up with the club in between her seasons with Lyon, returning stateside permanently in early 2014. She remains in Seattle to this day, and above she can be seen throwing out the opening pitch at a Seattle Mariners game.
With Rapinoe a driving force, Reign won the NWSL Shield - topping the regular-season standings - in both 2014 and 2015. The latter season yielded her first professional hat-trick.
World Cup Champion
Predominantly a substitute in 2011, by 2015 Rapinoe was a well-established star of the USWNT and scored the team's first goal of that year's World Cup in Canada. She went on to score twice in that win over Australia and finished the summer with a first World Cup trophy.
Rapinoe started every game except the quarter-final and was named in both the Dream Team and the All-Star Team for her performances as the U.S. lifted a first World Cup in 16 years.
Rapinoe's college ACL tears were both in her left knee, but in a training session during the final stages of the USWNT World Cup 'Victory Tour' in December 2015 she tore it in her right knee. Preparations for the following summer's Olympic Games in Brazil were well underway, including official portraits (above), and it was touch and go as to whether she would be fit in time.
Just seven months after her third ACL tear, Rapinoe did make the cut for the USWNT roster at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. But perhaps it was too soon. She hadn't played at all since it happened, missed the first two group games and lasted only 33 minutes of the third.
Rapinoe came off the bench in the second half of the quarter-final loss against Sweden, only to then be substituted in extra-time. Without her, the Americans lost on penalties and missed out on an Olympic medal of any colour for the first time since the sport was introduced.
Taking a Knee
In September 2016, Rapinoe knelt during the United States national anthem, first ahead of a Reign FC game, then before back-to-back internationals, a show of solidarity with former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick in his fight against racial injustice, oppression and police brutality.
Rapinoe was the first prominent white athlete to kneel in the protests that soon became widespread throughout the American sports world, but particularly in the NFL.
Back Among the Goals
Although always typically a winger and not a prolific goalscorer since college, Rapinoe foudn herself in fine form in 2018, going into 2019, and another World Cup year. She netted seven times for the United States in 2018, including against Germany in the SheBelieves Cup and three at the CONCACAF Championship, both of which ended in Amercian triumphs.
Rapinoe was also on the scoresheet twice more in the SheBelieves Cup in early 2019 and sat out the start of the NWSL season with Reign FC to preserve her fitness for the big one.
World Cup Superstardom
Rapinoe was captain as the United States kicked off the 2019 World Cup against Thailand, her third tournament. She scored the ninth goal in the 13-0 annihilation, and followed that up with crucial doubles in the 2-1 wins over Spain and France in the last 16 and quarter-final.
The opening goal in the final against the Netherlands was her sixth of the tournament, bringing with it the Golden Boot as top scorer, the Golden Ball as best player and a second World Cup trophy, with the U.S. becoming only the second country in history to retain it.
The Next Chapter
While her playing career is winding down at the age of 34, one gets the impression that Rapinoe might only just be getting started off the pitch. She has already taken a firm stand against U.S. president Donald Trump - "I'm not going to the f***ing White House" - and will continue to use her growing influence to fight inequality and oppression in all parts of life.