Born on June 2, 1980, in Rochester, New York, Abby Wambach became the all-time leading scorer at the University of Florida. She played for the Washington, Florida and Western New York clubs in U.S. women's pro soccer leagues, and twice led the national team to Olympic gold medals. The all-time leader in international goals, Wambach won a long-awaited World Cup title in 2015.
Early Years and College
Mary Abigail "Abby" Wambach was born on June 2, 1980, in Rochester, New York. The youngest of seven children, she roughhoused with her older brothers, developing a competitive mind-set that served her well in various sports.
Wambach starred in basketball and soccer at Our Lady of Mercy High School, but channeled her athletic energy into soccer at the University of Florida. After helping the Gators win the national championship as a freshman in 1998, she was twice named the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year and earned three All-America selections en route to recording a school-record 96 goals.
Drafted second overall by the Washington Freedom of the Women's United Soccer Association in 2002, Wambach paired with U.S. soccer great Mia Hamm to give the club a dynamic 1-2 scoring punch. The 5'11" forward was particularly dangerous on corner kicks, using her size to establish position and rise above the pack to blast a header at the goal. She was named Rookie of the Year in 2002 and MVP of the championship game in '03, but was left without a club when the WUSA folded after the season.
Wambach joined the updated version of the Washington Freedom following the formation of Women's Professional Soccer, and led the league in scoring in its inaugural 2009 season. She was named player-coach in 2011 after the club moved to Florida and was rebranded the MagicJack, but was again left to ponder her options when the league suspended operations in early 2012.
Women's soccer returned to the U.S. in 2013 with the National Women's Soccer League, and the five-time U.S. Player of the Year lived up to her billing as a premier draw by leading the Western New York Flash to the championship game.
Named to the U.S. national women's team in 2001, Wambach helped take the Stars and Stripes to a third-place finish at the 2003 FIFA Women's World Cup, and knocked home one of her patented headers in extra time to give the United States a thrilling win over Brazil for the gold medal at the 2004 Olympics.
The team again finished third at the 2007 World Cup, with Wambach claiming the Silver Shoe as the tournament's second-leading scorer. She missed the 2008 Olympics due to a broken leg, and then suffered a gruesome head injury in a collision during World Cup qualifying play, famously having her head stapled to remain in the game. She went on to deliver one of the 2011 World Cup's most thrilling moments with an extra-time header to help beat Brazil in the quarterfinals, though the U.S. team lost to Japan in the finals.
Wambach was sucker-punched by Colombia's Lady Andrade early in the 2012 Olympics, but took the rough treatment in stride by tweeting a photo of her black eye afterward. She finished second among all players in the competition with six goals, helping the United States exact revenge on Japan for the gold medal.
Wambach earned what seemed to be long-overdue recognition when she was named the 2012 FIFA Women's Player of the Year. She scored her 159th goal in international play to break Hamm's record the following June.
When the Women's World Cup began in June 2015, Wambach found herself in the unusual position of waiting to enter games as a backup. However, she still made her mark by scoring the lone goal for the U.S. team in the final game of group play, boosting her into a tie for second place all-time with 14 World Cup goals. A few weeks later, she finally savored a World Cup title when the U.S. defeated Japan in the final.
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