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Rampone set for historic 300th USWNT appearance

U.S. defender Christie Rampone is set to become the second player ever - man or woman - to play 300 international matches. (Photo Copyright Erica McCaulley for The Equalizer)

U.S. defender Christie Rampone is set to become the second player ever – man or woman – to play 300 international matches. (Photo Copyright Erica McCaulley for The Equalizer)

PHILADELPHIA — Defender Christie Rampone is set to make her 300th appearance for the United States women’s national team in Friday’s World Cup qualifying semifinal against Mexico, a feat only one other player in the world has accomplished.

Rampone would become the second player in world soccer history — man or woman — to earn 300 caps, joining former teammate Kristine Lilly, who played for the U.S. 352 times from 1987-2010. Lilly was the first woman to ever play in five World Cups, retiring just before what would have been her sixth in 2011. Japan’s Homare Sawa, Brazil’s Formiga and Germany’s Birgit Prinz have also played in five World Cups.

[Kassouf: U.S. women look to avenge 2010 loss to Mexico in CONCACAF semifinals]

Rampone will turn 40 years old during next year’s World Cup, which would be her fifth. She debuted for the U.S. in 1997 and played sparingly in the historic 1999 World Cup triumph on home soil, the last time the Americans won the event. She is the last remaining active player from the 1999 team. Rampone appeared in the last four Olympics.

The Point Pleasant, N.J., native was a forward in college at Monmouth University, where she scored 79 goals. But former U.S. coach Tony DiCicco converted her to a defender when he brought her into the national team. Rampone’s game has since evolved — primarily at center back — and so too has her leadership.

“They (teammates) definitely look to me when times are tough or things aren’t going well,” she said Thursday, on the eve of her 300th cap. “But I think the younger generation comes in with more confidence and I think you can say a little bit more experience playing and playing in bigger games. They are fitting in quite well. I probably don’t have to lead as much, but when the time comes, then I’m there and that door’s open and they can come talk to me. I lead in whichever way they need help in.”

Under Rampone’s captaincy, which began in 2008, the United States has compiled a 88-8-13 record.

On Friday Rampone can add one more win to that tally, and clinch her team a place in the 2015 World Cup. It would likely be her last major tournament, where she hopes to go out the way she entered the scene: a winner.

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