Abby Wambach has always been known more for her terrific play for the United States women's national team than any off-field ventures. But her appearance in ESPN's Body Issue comes at a perfect time for the powerful striker.
Athletes around the country have a golden opportunity to improve their personal brand with the London Olympics right around the corner. Anything they can do to make them more marketable to a wider audience helps.
Appearing in the Body Issue shows that Wambach is finally coming out of her shell and will make her name known to a much wider base of fans. That larger appeal will help her gain the attention of companies who may have overlooked her in the past.
She has been dominating on the pitch for the United States for nearly a decade. The 32-year-old New York native has scored 138 goals in 182 games, making her one of the most successful players in the team's history.
The only person ahead of her on the goal-scoring list is Mia Hamm. During her rise to fame, Hamm became really good at self-promotion, which allows her to get recognized to this day even though she hasn't laced up her cleats in eight years.
That's what Wambach should be striving for as well. Playing a sport at an elite level only lasts for so long before the body starts breaking down, although she looks as fit as ever in the magazine. So looking ahead to the future is a good move.
The combination of a Body Issue appearance and leading the United States to a goal medal in London would do wonders for Wambach. In terms of improving her brand, that would be the equivalent of a game-winning goal as time was winding down.
Although she has been known by a niche sports audience for a long time, those two things would give her name and face recognition well beyond that group.
Wambach has spent a lot of time in the shadow of her teammates over the years, most recently to fellow striker Alex Morgan, who appeared in Sports Illustrated's Swimsuit Issue. So it's nice to see her garnering the spotlight.
Even though Wambach is a team-first player and would probably say winning in London is more important than anything else, there's no reason she can't improve her image at the same time. And that's exactly what's happening.
The Body Issue was the first step. Now, on to the Olympics.