Soccer star Megan Rapinoe on the World Cup and equal pay : The Limits with Jay Williams U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe is of course a champion on the field, but off the field, she's a champion for the causes that matter. She has long been one of the biggest voices advocating for equal pay in the U.S. Soccer Federation, which was historically reached via collective bargaining agreements this month.

Now, as she's reaching the end of her trailblazing run in professional soccer, Megan sat down with Jay Williams to talk about the path to equal pay for the U.S. Women's National Team, and what work still needs to be done across professional sports.

Plus, she reveals whether she'll appear in the 2023 World Cup, the sacrifices she has made as a lifelong athlete, and whether or not a future in politics is in store for her.

For sponsor-free episodes, weekly bonus content, and more, subscribe to The Limits Plus at plus.npr.org/thelimits. On this week's Plus episode, Megan discusses equal pay in the international arena, and how she has remained at the top of her sport.

Follow Jay on Instagram and Twitter. Email us at thelimits@npr.org.

Soccer star Megan Rapinoe opens up about achieving equal pay and the next World Cup

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Megan Rapinoe. Photo illustration by Estefania Mitre/NPR; Photo by Karina Matrias hide caption

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Photo illustration by Estefania Mitre/NPR; Photo by Karina Matrias

Megan Rapinoe.

Photo illustration by Estefania Mitre/NPR; Photo by Karina Matrias

U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe is of course a champion on the field, but off the field, she's a champion for the causes that matter. She has long been one of the biggest voices advocating for equal pay in the U.S. Soccer Federation, which was historically reached via collective bargaining agreements this month.

Now, as she's reaching the end of her trailblazing run in professional soccer, Megan sat down with Jay Williams to talk about the path to equal pay for the U.S. Women's National Team, and what work still needs to be done across professional sports. Plus, she reveals whether she'll appear in the 2023 World Cup, the sacrifices she has made as a lifelong athlete, and whether or not a future in politics is in store for her.

Interview highlights

Rapinoe recalls her earliest memories of learning soccer from her older brother, and how over the years, while she and her sister excelled on the field, their brother went in and out of the juvenile system for reasons related to drug addiction. Seeing this shaped Megan both on and off the field. She says that fans often can't see how such personal issues translate to sports.

I think it's difficult without sort of knowing that intimately. And I think it's difficult for athletes to express because it seems like every time we start to get into it, it's like, "Yeah, but you're playing a sport that you love." Like most people would love to be able to find something they're so passionate about and devote their whole lives to. But once you're in it, it's just, like, multiple things are true at one time.

While everyone raves about how equal pay is a historic victory, Megan still isn't satisfied.

A collective bargaining agreement is just words on paper. It doesn't actually make anyone do anything. It's the enforcement on both sides that actually makes that happen.

I think it's also rebuilding U.S. Soccer in a lot of ways. They've operated this way, in the same way, for a very long time and they're going to need to change, you know, not just hearts and minds, but I think practices and systems that they have, and their sort of way of doing things. I think it's taking this exciting moment and building on it, whether that's a media rights deal or sponsorships or whatever it may be, and just continuing to ascend.

She thinks that equal pay will create pathways to rebuilding U.S. Soccer by giving female soccer players more of a financial safety net to speak out.

It just gives you that autonomy to do things that can push your sport. Thinking about the way that LeBron James completely change the whole NBA — if he's only making a million or $2 million, maybe he doesn't put that on the line, but he was making all that and he saw a way bigger vision and he wanted to change that. And he was able to do that because he was financially secure from the time he got drafted. He was able to take risks for himself.

When asked about her future in professional soccer and retirement, Megan was hesitant to say much, but did offer that she hopes to play in the 2023 World Cup.

I had a couple little injuries, I'm getting a little bit older, so I want to go through the season and see how my body feels and all that, but I feel like I still have a lot to give. And I know the team, the dynamic of the team, especially the national team, is changing a lot with a lot of younger players who are absolutely killing it. I feel like I'd be a nice bridge into the next generation.


For sponsor-free episodes, weekly bonus content, and more, subscribe to The Limits Plus at plus.npr.org/thelimits. On this week's Plus episode, Megan discusses equal pay in the international arena, and how she has remained at the top of her sport.

Follow Jay on Instagram and Twitter. Email us at thelimits@npr.org.

The Limits is produced by Karen Kinney, Mano Sundaresan, Leena Sanzgiri, Barton Girdwood, and Yolanda Sangweni. Music by Ramtin Arablouei. Our executive producer is Anya Grundmann. Special thanks to Christina Hardy, Rhudy Correa, and Charla Riggi.