The biggest name yet has decided not to play in NWSL this season. Abby Wambach announced Wednesday she will not play for the Western New York Flash in 2015 in order to focus her attention on helping the United States win the World Cup.
The decision to skip the season extends beyond the completion of the World Cup. The final match is July 5, two months before the end of the NWSL regular season.
“I am so proud of our league and truly appreciate the support of the Sahlen’s and the fans of Western New York,” Wambach said in a release, referencing Flash owner Joe Sahlen and team president Alex Sahlen, Joe’s daughter. “At this stage of my career I know what I need to prepare mentally and physically for this summer. My sole focus is to help bring a World Cup back to the U.S.”
Grant Wahl reports that Wambach still plans to play in the 2016 Olympics and would be open to playing a year of club soccer in Europe.
Wambach has been a fixture in U.S. club soccer since the Washington Freedom drafted her No. 2 overall (Danielle Slaton, Carolina Courage) in the 2002 WUSA draft. She helped the Freedom to the final in both seasons, winning in the last WUSA game ever played in 2003. She rejoined the Freedom for the launch of WPS in 2009 and played two more seasons before spending 2011 with magicJack where she eventually became player/coach.
Wambach was allocated to the Flash for the launch of NWSL in 2013 returning to the area where she grew up and remains wildly popular. The Flash won the NWSL Shield with the best record in the league in 2013 but lost in the championship match at Sahlen’s Stadium. With Wambach nursing injury for much of the summer the team missed the playoffs in 2014.
“While it’s difficult to lose a player like Abby, we are grateful for her contributions over the past two years, not only to the Flash but to the entire Rochester and Western New York soccer community,” Alex Sahlen said. “We want to wish Abby and the rest of the U.S. women’s national team the best of luck in the upcoming World Cup.”
The Flash retooled much of their roster over the winter and the loss of Wambach will make the squad that much younger throughout 2015.
NWSL commissioner Jeff Plush said in a statement: “We are very appreciative of everything that Abby has done both for our league and for the women’s game in our country. We respect and support her decision, and wish her nothing but the best in this exciting period of time.”
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