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All That's Left for Carli Lloyd to Do Is Confront the End

There's little else for the U.S. icon to accomplish as her storied career comes to a close, but contemplating her final cap with the USWNT is new territory.

By now, the numbers and achievements are the stuff of legend, even if the exact figures continue to change down to the final minute Carli Lloyd plays.

There are the 315 caps, 134 goals and 64 assists for the U.S. women's national team, with the former figure at the very least surely to grow by one Tuesday night in Minneapolis. There are the two FIFA World Player of the Year awards, the two Women's World Cup titles, the two Olympic gold medals. There are the game-winning goals in two Olympic gold medal games and the iconic hat trick in the 2015 Women's World Cup final.

Even in her final months as a national team player, Lloyd managed to etch her name in the U.S. record books, with her five-goal game against Paraguay tying the mark for most goals scored in a single match. She's also the oldest player to ever score for the U.S. She's appeared in more matches in major tournaments than any other U.S. player. Then there are the numbers that are perhaps a little less widely cited but no less important and significant when quantifying her career. There are the 10 goals in World Cups and 10 more in the Olympics. There are the 98 she's scored since turning 30. Simply put, there's just not much more that's new for Lloyd to discover in this game.

So as the curtain falls on one of the all-time great USWNT careers against South Korea at Allianz Field, there's only piece of business left to handle: confronting the end.

USWNT star Carli Lloyd is retiring

It's not something Lloyd has done at all until recently, with her famous tunnel vision and intense focus on the task at hand commanding her mental and physical strength. The 39-year-old Lloyd has always been defiant when it comes to letting anyone else dictate when she'd be stepping away, whether that be fans on social media or the occasional journalist questioning whether age had gotten the best of her and whether it was time to move aside for someone else. She made the 2019 Women's World Cup and 2021 Olympic squads as a proof of practice, and finding a way to remain motivated—whether it be through traditional means or more self-manufactured ones—proved key to lengthening her career at the top. Select all-time greats across other sports are or have been no different. It just takes a rare species to buy all the way in.

Along the way Lloyd has become synonymous with a number of words. Dedication. Inspiration. Commitment. She's talked at length about the focus required to pull off the career longevity and ability to succeed at the highest level as she approached 40.

"I don't think there's many that understand what it actually takes," Lloyd said Monday. "It's a lot. I just said the other day at training it's very tiring to continue to prove people wrong. It's nice knowing that for 17 years I've just been on that mission to be the best that I possibly can be."

After emptying the tank across the second-most caps in international soccer history, it's finally time to both reflect and look forward, while soaking in the final minutes donning a U.S. shirt as an active player. There's nothing else left to achieve at this point.

"I think emotions are going to flow, obviously," Lloyd said. "I've sort of been this player where I haven't let my mind go to feeling tired or feeling burned out or wanting to hang up my boots. And I'm at this stage, I'm at this point in my career. And I don't think any athlete ever thinks of the 'retirement' word until it's actually near. ... I've been 'Iced-out Carli' for so long. People have always seen that. People haven't always seen the different side of me. I'm going to savor it, savor every moment. I think it's going to be truly special.

"I'm going to soak it all in, that's for sure. No tunnel vision tomorrow night."

Lloyd did manage to have one new experience in a U.S. camp while in Minnesota. Instead of calling it a night and preparing for the matchday-minus-one training session on Sunday night, she attended the Rolling Stones concert at U.S. Bank Stadium, adding that she, Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan got to meet Mick Jagger. 

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"That's the thing, I think throughout my career, I've just wanted to be the best soccer player that I could be," Lloyd said. "I've often missed out on going to do things for fun. I'm not missing out on anything now. 

"They sort of make me feel like I should keep playing. Mick running down the stage at the age of 78 and performing the way that he did was pretty incredible," she added, jokingly.

Carli Lloyd's Gotham FC is in the NWSL playoff hunt

Tuesday won't be the last time Lloyd plays. Her NWSL team, NJ/NY Gotham FC, is still in the playoff hunt, and a league title is something that Lloyd has never won. Throughout her club career, an FA Cup title with Manchester City is the only trophy she's lifted, doing so after scoring in the final against Birmingham City at Wembley Stadium in 2017. But on the international stage, she can finally let the guard down. She's already announced that she's passing on her No. 10 shirt to Lindsey Horan, and there's a cast of young players ready to take the baton, knowing what the standard has been.

"Her career is remarkable. I don't know that it will ever be matched. I wish it is," U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski said. "We want to see [Sophia] Smith or Mallory Pugh or Cat Macario or anyone to reach that. But the fact that Carli did it is a good benchmark or a good standard for youngest players to strive toward.

"But also the ones that are in the middle [of their careers]. They see Carli now and they see 'Oh now we have a lot more years in us. It's not just two or three now.' She extended the lifespan of professional athletes and showed that age is just a number."

Lloyd said she's spoken with past U.S. players about retirement such as Heather Mitts, Hope Solo, Heather O'Reilly and Aly Wagner, to get an idea of what to expect. 

"It's a transition that I'm about to find out," Lloyd said. "There is life after soccer. It just looks different."

And the USWNT will look different without Lloyd. She's been a staple and a constant for nearly two decades, one with a take-it-or-leave-it attitude and a knack for coming through in the clutch. She hasn't necessarily been everyone's cup of tea, but then again, she's rarely been concerned about that. 

"I know that I've probably been misunderstood by ... just about everybody," Lloyd said. "But I've just tried to give my most authentic self. Truthful, honest, raw. I've given everything I have to this team. Every time. Day in and day out."

One more to go.

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