The American soccer social event of the decade took place literally at the end of the decade.
On Dec. 28, 2019, two-time Women's World Cup winners Ashlyn Harris and Ali Krieger—two of the most popular players among U.S. women’s national team fans—were married in a ceremony at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens in Miami in front of 140 guests, including a who’s who of past and present soccer stars. And while the newlyweds had to go straight from their wedding into an important national team camp ahead of the Olympic qualifying tournament later this month, the juxtaposition of family and national team made perfect sense.
The officiant was Orlando Pride forward Sydney Leroux (whose son, Cassius, has Krieger and Harris as godparents), and Megan Rapinoe (Harris’s best friend) was a maid of honor.
“We spend more time together with this team than we do our family,” Harris said from camp in an interview with SI.com. “Megan and Sydney have been there from the start. We’ve grown up through all of our phases, romantically and professionally and personally. These women have been by our side through all of it.”
Krieger added: “From the youngest player on the team to the oldest, we care about each other. That creates a sense of safety and being comfortable that you can’t really put into words. The chemistry that we have off the field is applied on the field, and you can see that. Everything is real, and it’s true and it’s honest and it’s raw. And we’ve created that culture from day one.”
Their actual families were there, too, of course. Ali’s brother, Kyle, was the best man, and in his toast he sounded a note of support for the gay community and self-expression that pervaded an evening featuring a rainbow wedding cake and dinner tables named after LGBTQ leaders like Marsha P. Johnson, an activist involved in the Stonewall uprising—the 50th anniversary of which took place on the day the U.S. beat France in last year’s World Cup quarterfinals.
“Since you went public with your relationship [in March 2019], it has been a gift to watch you grow together,” he said to Krieger and Harris. “It’s amazing, because you guys are like a beacon of light for all young queer LGBTQ women and men who just need someone to look up to, like we get happy endings too. In the media and the movies, so often ... you know, queer stories have a devastating ending, but not here. In real life, we get to see you guys live the dream.”
Another guest who made it was the Kriegers’ father, Ken. In August, he had been involved in a serious car accident driving home from Ali’s NWSL game at Audi Field in Washington, D.C., which put him in an ICU at the hospital.
“He hit a tree head-on,” Ali said. “If he didn’t have a seatbelt on, he wouldn’t have made it. We’re so thankful that he did, and we actually had the first dance together. He threw his cane to the side and just demolished the dance floor. Ashlyn and I were so happy that he could be a part of it.”
Krieger and Harris met for the first time at a USWNT camp in 2010. They were friends at first, they said, but there was most definitely an attraction that continued building over time.
“When we first met,” said Krieger, “it was just her confidence and her comfort in being herself that were just captivating. I found myself wanting to just hang out with her all the time and be around her. We built this friendship as a foundation, and it evolved into a relationship. She had this badass attitude and was just herself. I think I was more myself when I hung out with her, and that’s when I knew she would become someone important in my life.”
Harris added, of those early days: “We would sit and have really long conversations and talk about our hopes and dreams and what we wanted to accomplish. We were just so infatuated with each other, and all of our goals aligned. I just felt like it was so effortless, like we just clicked on such a cool level both emotionally and physically. Some of the best memories I have are sitting for hours and hours getting to know her. It was definitely for me like a love-at-first-sight type of thing.”
For years, Harris and Krieger kept their relationship quiet publicly, thinking it could limit their endorsement deals. But Krieger recalls having a conversation with Rapinoe about going public on a group vacation that included Rapinoe and her girlfriend, basketball star Sue Bird.
“You know, it’s fine to be private and not put yourselves out there, we totally get it,” Krieger said Rapinoe told them. “But if you guys do, then you would be helping so many young people who are struggling with feeling the same way, and making sure that they’re comfortable in their own skin and being their authentic selves. It would be so powerful if you guys announced that you are together.”
Last March, they announced their engagement in a photo shoot with People. The positive response has been enormous.
“We’ve gotten messages from a lot of adults who are like, ‘I’m 40 years old and this is the first time I feel so calm and comfortable in coming out and being myself after watching your guys’ wedding,’” Krieger said. “We didn’t think it was going to be such a big thing. And it’s turned out so positive and inspiring for us. We’ve grown through this process and really enjoyed helping people along the way.”
You can hear her smile on the other end of the phone. “Pinoe was right.”
One thing you never have to worry about with Ashlyn Harris is her not being herself. Last week you could catch her on social media cavorting in her USWNT camp hotel room in a full Spiderman costume, a get-up she purchased in advance of an upcoming birthday party for one of their godsons. Harris’s uncensored Instagram stories following the team’s World Cup celebrations from the postgame locker room to the flight to New York to more parties in Los Angeles have become the stuff of legend.
“You know what it is?” Harris said. “I finally just started living my truth and just not caring what people thought of me. And I’m just, like, not censored, and I’ve been so censored through everything. And now I just have the freedom of people loving me for me, and so I give people what they want.”
She laughed. “But in all seriousness, so many people played such an important factor in us winning. And it was a moment where I was like, No one gets to see what goes on in that locker room, and the pure joy and excitement, and I wanted to bring everyone along. And holy smokes, I had no idea the amount of people that were just floored by the footage. It was so funny, but it’s hard to describe in five days what we go through when we win a World Cup. It’s the most insane five days of our lives, and I wanted to make sure I documented it. And hopefully I’ll be on this next journey [to the Olympics], and I will be bringing my A-game.”
So far, their wedding event was their biggest foray into the fashion world. But it’s hardly their only one. Last year both Harris and Krieger signed with the prestigious Elite modeling agency in New York, and that has opened an entirely new sphere for them. (Harris says to look out for an exciting new campaign soon.)
“I love fashion,” Harris said. “I love self-expression. But I find that the fashion industry just really doesn’t take female athletes seriously. I find that they think we’re not into what we look like, we’re not into self-care and wearing makeup and hair products and, you know, really taking care of the small details that matter. And I love that Ali and I have had a lot of meetings with different brands and companies saying, like, that’s false. That is just a stereotype that doesn’t exist. There’s a lot of great qualities in these women, and we can be a part of the fashion industry if you make space for us.”
Both Harris and Krieger spent time in New York determining their wedding attire. Harris made several trips meeting with Thom Browne to produce a custom tuxedo that included three different looks for the wedding, with long pants, shorts, a vest and a cutoff shirt. Kreiger, for her part, took a weekend trip to Gotham with her best friend and maid of honor, Elizabeth Mumley, was stunned that she found her dress—a white Pronovias long-sleeved dress with a V in the back—in the first store they visited.
At the wedding, which had tables named for LGBTQ community icons such as Billie Jean King and Ellen Degeneres, they read their own vows to each other without having shared them with each other before the moment itself.
“I think it’s important to continue to make sure that people know that we aren’t completing each other,” Krieger said of those vows. “We’re just complementing each other in our lives. We still want each other to be ourselves and thrive. And how can I help Ash continue to be her badass self? And how can she continue to help me blossom into the woman that I really want to become? It was kind of like, I’m going to promise this for you and obviously stand by your side through everything.”
Krieger and Harris are hoping to take a long honeymoon at some point. The Maldives, Bali and Bora Bora are places they have discussed visiting, Harris said. For now, though, it is all about this summer’s Olympics. They’re both hoping to make the 20-player roster for the Olympic qualifying tournament that begins later this month, knowing it’s a smaller number than the 23-player roster that went to the World Cup.
“We’ve been in double-days building up to the wedding,” Harris said, “and after the wedding we were back on the field by Monday. Our priority has always been this team and to build something incredible. And that’s to not only be able to win a World Cup, but an Olympics right after it. We know what’s at stake right now, and we need to be the best version of ourselves coming into camp.”
From a soccer perspective, 2019 couldn’t have gone much better for Krieger. After being left out of the national team for two years, she got called up again before the World Cup, made the roster for France and even played the second half of the final against the Netherlands.
“Honestly, I couldn’t have written this story, and I definitely wouldn’t have believed it if someone had told me ahead of time,” she said. “So I’m incredibly grateful and just feel so rewarded. I’m happy Jill [Ellis] called me and that I had this incredible experience with the girls. But I wouldn’t be here without Ash. She went out with me every single day to train. She dragged me out no matter how sad or tired I was. And we did it.
“So I don’t know if we can top 2019, but we’re going to try.”