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U.S. Soccer to honor Christie Rampone on March 4

USA’s second-most capped player of all-time will be recognized before the USA vs. England match at Red Bull Arena

Soccer: Post WWC Tour -Haiti at USA Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Sky Blue FC’s Christie Rampone will be honored by U.S. Soccer for her legendary career before the U.S. Women’s National Team vs. England game on March 4 during the SheBelieves Cup. The pre-game ceremony will take place at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J.

Rampone is the second-most capped player in the history of international women’s soccer with 311 appearances. She sits behind former teammate Kristine Lilly, who retired after playing 354 games. Rampone was the most capped active player in the world at both the 2011 and 2015 Women’s World Cup and is one of two players in soccer history to have played in 300 or more games for her country.

The Point Pleasant, N.J. native is the final member of the 1999 Women’s World Cup Team to retire from international competition. However, she will once again return for pre-season with Sky Blue FC in March for her fifth National Women’s Soccer League season and 11th overall playing professional women’s soccer in the U.S.

Rampone’s 19-year international career includes numerous accomplishments: two Women’s World Cup championships, three Olympic gold medals and one Olympic silver medal. She also captained the USWNT with tremendous class, leadership and professionalism from 2008-15, earning her the nickname “Captain America.”

She played her final international match on Sept. 20, 2015 against Haiti in Birmingham, Ala. In her final competitive match, Rampone entered the 2015 Women’s World Cup Final in the 86th minute and later triumphantly lifted the World Cup Trophy with long-time teammate Abby Wambach. Rampone is the eighth woman in U.S. history with two World Cup titles to her name.

“I really couldn’t have asked for more from my career with the National Team, not only on the field but also in the relationships I made and the life experiences I was fortunate enough to have,” Rampone said in a press release from U.S. Soccer. “As a young girl, I never imagined the things I would get to see and the amazing people I would meet. I’m looking forward to celebrating with friends and family in my home state and seeing the team play England. There are some fantastic young players as well as many of the veterans I played with leading the team, so I know it’s in very good hands.”

Rampone’s path to the USWNT began in an unlikely way. She opted to stay close to home and went to college at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, N.J., on a basketball scholarship while also playing for the soccer team. She was the starting point guard on the basketball team her senior season, and she was on the bus to an away game when her coach handed her a fax that would change her life – an invite to the Women’s National Team.

While playing soccer at Monmouth, Rampone was a high-scoring forward, tallying 79 goals during her collegiate career. However, then-head coach Tony DiCicco was looking for athletic defenders, and Rampone was up for the challenge. After playing well in her first training camp, Rampone made the roster for a trip to Australia. Rampone would get her first cap on Feb. 28, 1997 vs. Australia as a second-half sub. From there, she never turned back and would continue to be an integral part of the USWNT for the next 19 years.

Rampone started in 272 of her 311 caps and played a total of 24,011 minutes in a U.S. uniform, second-best in U.S. history. She finishes as the USA’s only four-time Olympian, and she and Lilly are the only U.S. players to compete in five Women’s World Cup tournaments.

“I’ve always enjoyed intense competition, and with the U.S. team I got to pursue those goals at the highest level, which is part of what kept me going for so long,” Rampone said in the press release. “I am very thankful to all the coaches I played for, especially to Tony DiCicco for giving me that first chance, and I am especially thankful to all my teammates. They are inspiring people who helped a shy girl from the Jersey Shore grow as a person and a player and gave her enough confidence to one day be the captain of her country. They are truly my sisters. We went through so much together over the years, all the wins and some tough loses, but we always kept competing, and that’s something I’ll always cherish. To get to stand on top of the podium so many times with them was just amazing.”

Rampone has also played in all three professional women’s soccer leagues: the Women’s United Soccer Association, the Women’s Professional Soccer and the NWSL. She was a member of the New York Power in the WUSA from 2001-03, played for Sky Blue FC and magicJack in the WPS, and has since returned to Sky Blue FC in 2013 where she continues to captain the NJ squad.

Her professional soccer highlights include winning a WPS championship with Sky Blue FC as a player-head coach, and also three months pregnant.

Rampone is the oldest woman to play in a FIFA Women’s World Cup and on July 5, 2015, she became the oldest woman to play in a Women’s World Cup Final at the age of 40 years and 11 days, and was still one of the fittest players on the team.

Fans may have seen the last of Captain America in a USWNT uniform, but her legacy will never be forgotten.