By Todd Kortemeier | Dec. 31, 2019, 12:01 a.m. (ET)

Megan Rapinoe celebrates at the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup on July 7, 2019 in Lyon, France.

 

It’s not so much “why” Megan Rapinoe had the best 2019 of any Team USA athlete, it’s more the “how”—as in how could anyone else have a better one?

All Rapinoe did this year was win her second FIFA Women’s World Cup title, leading the tournament in goals and winning the Golden Ball, which landed her on the cover of Sports Illustrated the first time this year, then she was named Best FIFA Women’s Player, then she won the Ballon d’Or Feminin, and finally was named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year, which landed her on the cover the second time.

That’s a formidable resume for an entire career, let alone just one year out of a decade-plus of international and club soccer that has included an Olympic gold medal and another World Cup title. Rapinoe turned 34 just two days before the U.S. beat France to hoist its fourth World Cup title — in which she scored the opening goal and was named Player of the Match — but Team USA’s reliable winger proved she is on anything but the downside of her career.

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Nor is she going to remain silent about the issues that matter to her. Whether it is politics, equality for female athletes, or rebuking those who want to tell her and her teammates how to act, she has not been afraid to use her voice. That outspokenness coupled with her dominance on the field of play has made her an inspiration to people young and old, soccer fans and non-soccer fans.

“We have a unique opportunity in football different to any other sport in the world to use this beautiful game to actually change the world for better,” Rapinoe said in September in her acceptance speech for Best FIFA Women’s Player. “That’s my charge to everyone.”

So it’s pretty good to be Megan Rapinoe. She has a supportive partner who knows a thing or two about high-level competition — she and four-time Olympic gold medalist basketball star Sue Bird have been dating for more than two years. 

Rapinoe has an opportunity next summer to avenge a bitter defeat Team USA suffered in 2016, losing in the Olympic quarterfinals to Sweden on penalty kicks. Rapinoe came on as a sub in that match and was subbed off in extra time. Expect Team USA’s talisman to play more of a starring role this time around.

Todd Kortemeier is a sportswriter, editor and children’s book author from Minneapolis. He is a contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.