Childhood & Early Life
Abby Wambach was born as Mary Abigail Wambach on June 2, 1980 in Rochester, New York, to Pete and Judy Wambach. She is the youngest of the seven siblings.
Wambach’s love for soccer started as early as when she was four. Interestingly, it was her elder sister who first decided to play the sport. Inspired by her, she too took to playing the sport.
From 1994 to 1998, she attended Our Lady of Mercy High School. While at school, her game improved exceptionally. She scored 142 goals in her high school career. It was during this time that Wambach extensively practiced diving headers, a skill that later became her signature style as an international player. Her phenomenal records helped her become the top-rated high school player.
She became the captain of the Rochester Spirit club team. Additionally, she was also the member of the Olympic Development Program (ODP) U-16 National Team and National U-20 Player Pool. She even trained and played with the U.S. women's national soccer team. She also became a part of the first American youth soccer team to compete in Beijing, China.
Labelled as the top college recruit, it was only natural for Wambach to become intensely sought after by top universities of the country. After much consideration, she finally accepted a full athletic scholarship to attend the University of Florida in Gainesville from 1998 to 2001.
In her freshman year, Wambach led her team, Florida Gators to their first NCAA national championship over the 15-time champion North Carolina Tar Heels. With her with the team, Florida Gators clutched many titles and championships. She also helped set school career records for goals, assists, points, game-winning goals, and hat tricks. For a decade, she was the leading scorer with 96 goals.
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Abby Wambach’s exceptional talent and skill earned her a spot in the national team training camp in 2001. Her first ever match was against Germany at Nike US Cup in Chicago. Her team won the match 4-1. Later, in a match against Finland in San Jose, Wambach scored her maiden international goal helping her team win the match 3-0.
Meanwhile, her club career started in 2002 when she was selected by Washington Freedom for the second season of Women’s United Soccer Association. She became the leading scorer with ten goals and assists and was named WUSA Rookie of the Year.
In the 2003 season, Wambach helped Washington Freedom to bag the Founders Cup III. In the final match against Atlanta Beat, she not only scored the second fastest goal in the history of Founders Cup but also the game-winning goal to finish at 2-1.
The year 2003 marked the beginning of Wambach’s international career as she was named to the US roster for the 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup team. At FIFA 2003, Wambach’s performance was at par with her previous record. She played outstandingly well, scoring three goals in the tournament, the highest in the US squad.
Post FIFA 2003, she started training with the national team for the 2004 Summer Olympics. Wambach played a crucial role in all the matches. In the final against Brazil, it was her last minute 10-yard header off a corner kick that gave US a 2-1 victory. It was later reckoned as one of the five biggest goals in U.S. women's national team history.
Wambach’s four goals at the 2004 Summer Olympics set a new record by a single US player at an Olympic event. She finished the year with a record of 31 international goals and 13 assists in 30 matches for the national team. She finished fourth for the FIFA Women's World Player of the Year.
At the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Abby Wambach scored a goal in each of the match against North Korea, Sweden, Nigeria and England. They lost to Brazil in the semi final, finishing the tournament at the third spot after a win against Norway. During the championship, Wambach scored six goals in six matches. She became the twentieth player in U.S. women's national soccer team history to earn 100 international caps.
Despite being named to the 2008 Summer Olympics held in Beijing, China, Wambach couldn’t be a part of it due to a broken left leg injury. A leading scorer for the team and just one shy of 100 international goals, the injury came in as a blow.
However, spirited as she was, she lifted the morale of the team who went on to win gold at the tournament.
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Wambach’s 100th goal came in a friendly match against Canada in her hometown of Rochester on July 19, 2009. She became the fifth U.S. player and ninth female player in world history to notch 100 international goals. What’s more, she reached 100 goals in fewer games than any of the four other American players who had previously attained the feat.
Meanwhile in 2008, a new professional league for women was formed: Women's Professional Soccer (WPS). In the new league, Wambach was assigned to Washington Freedom. She became the top WPS Player in 2009 with eight goals and was named to the 2010 WPS All-Star Team. Her exceptional performance helped her become one of two captains for the 2010 WPS All-Star Game.
In 2011, Wambach was named in the US roster for the FIFA Women’s World Cup. At the quarterfinals against Brazil, she scored a header goal in stoppage time that set a new record for latest goal ever scored in a FIFA competition.
In the final against Japan, she scored a goal at the first half thus becoming US all-time scoring leader in FIFA Women's World Cup history with 13 goals. However, US lost the match to Japan. She received Bronze Boot, Silver Ball and Silver Medal at the competition.
When in 2012, a new women’s soccer league was announced, Wambach was amongst the few chosen players from the national team. She was allocated to the National Women's Soccer League club, Western New York Flash in her hometown of Rochester, New York, as part of the NWSL Player Allocation. She made her debut on April 14, 2013 against Sky Blue FC.
Wambach was named NWSL Player of the Week for week 5 after scoring both goals in the victory over FC Kansas City. She became the first player in the league to win the award twice after scoring a goal and serving an assist during the Flash's win over Sky Blue FC.
At the Summer Olympics in 2012, Wambach scored five goals in every match except the final. She also scored her 140thinternational goal in the tournament.
Wambach played her fourth and last FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2015 in Canada. US won the tournament comfortably, lifting the World Cup. The same year in October, she announced her retirement. The last game that she played was in New Orleans on December 16.
Awards & Achievements
Abby Wambach’s career had been outstandingly brilliant throughout. In her international career, she scored 184 goals in 255 international matches to become the leading all-time international scorer for men and women, a record which she holds till date.
She was conferred with the US Soccer Federation’s US Soccer Athlete of the Year Award six times (2003, 2004, 2007, 2010, 2011 and 2013).
In 2011, Wambach received the prestigious Bronze Boot and Silver Ball at the FIFA Women's World Cup. The same year, she was also awarded the ESPY Award for Best Play for her 122nd-minute equalizing goal against Brazil.
She received gold at the 2004 and 2012 Summer Olympics in Athens and London. In 2012, she was bestowed with the FIFA World Player of the Year award, becoming the first American to win after a decade.
The US’ victory at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World cup helped Wambach and her team to become the first women's sports team to be honored with a Ticker Tape Parade in New York City. The team was also honored by President Barack Obama at the White House.
She was named to the Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world in 2015.
Personal Life & Legacy
Abby Wambach married her long-time girlfriend Sarah Huffman in Hawaii in October 2013. Three years later, in September 2016, the duo announced their divorce.
In November 2016, Wambach stated that she was in a relationship with author Glennon Doyle Melton. They took the marital vows in May 2017.
Wambach is an active philanthropist who has raised money for the Epilepsy Foundation and Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Along with her teammates, she took part in the Bank of America charitable campaign at the Chicago Marathon. She even served as an ambassador for Athlete Ally.