A string of injuries led United States women's soccer legend Megan Rapinoe to ponder her future in the sport.
In an interview with Henry Bushnell of Yahoo Sports, Rapinoe revealed there were multiple times in the past year she considered retirement.
"Because I don't need to play," she said of her thought process. "I can do other things. I have a lot of other opportunities. Is [playing soccer] something that I actually want to choose? Or am I just kinda in the hamster wheel and don't want to get off?"
Rapinoe's reasoning for contemplating the end of her career came as she dealt with ankle and calf injuries in the lead up to the NWSL season.
The 2020 Summer Olympics may have been the final ride for Rapinoe as a regular starter for the U.S. women's national team. If that's the case, she went out in a blaze of glory with two goals in a 4-3 victory over Australia in the bronze-medal match.
Head coach Vlatko Andonovski has been using the period since the Olympics and lead-up to World Cup qualifying to evaluate younger players who could play a prominent long-term role for the squad.
After being named to the roster for World Cup qualifying in June, Rapinoe told ESPN's Jeff Kassouf she anticipates playing a different role this time around:
"We have a really young squad, and I feel like what I can bring to them in a mentor role, at training, being in their ear, the level of professionalism and understanding the style that Vlatko wants to play, and [being] that conduit to what the coaching staff wants and what the players are going to ultimately do on the field, was part of the roster selection."
In the same discussion with Kassouf, Rapinoe admitted she spoke with her fiancée, WNBA star Sue Bird, about possibly retiring due to frustration with her injuries and how she managed those thoughts.
"I think being able to have someone who intimately knows what it means when I say, 'I want to retire right now; I'm so frustrated,' it may not actually mean that," Rapinoe said. "It actually means a lot of different things. So, being able to be there for her, and her be there for me, is the greatest gift ever."
Rapinoe appears to have gotten back on track in recent weeks. The 37-year-old scored four goals in a three-match span for the OL Reign from Aug. 7 to 26. Her final goal during that stretch was a stoppage-time header to give the Reign a 2-1 victory over the Orlando Pride.
If Andonovski keeps Rapinoe on the roster for the World Cup, it will mark her fourth time competing in the event with the United States. She made her debut at the 2011 tournament, recording one goal and three assists to lead the U.S. to a silver medal.
America won back-to-back World Cup titles in 2015 and 2019. Rapinoe won the Golden Boot and Golden Ball award as the best player in the 2019 tournament after scoring six goals in seven matches.