Heather Mitts, one of just three women’s soccer players to win three Olympic gold medals, has announced her retirement from club and country.
The 34-year-old Mitts retires after having played 137 times for the United States, good for 18th on the USA’s all-time caps list and sixth-best for a defender. She debuted for the USA back in February of 1999, wearing the U.S. jersey for the first time against Finland in Orlando, Fla.
"We’re obviously disappointed not to have Mitts this year, but she’s been a vital part of what we’ve done in the past. And I think she’ll continue to be a part of the sport," Boston Breakers Head Coach Lisa Cole said. "We wish her all the best."
Mitts was a member of the USA’s 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympic gold medal teams as well as the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup Team. She played in nine career Olympic matches including a memorable performance in the 2008 gold medal game victory against Brazil. She scored two goals in her career, both game-winners.
“The time has come for me to move onto a new stage of my career,” said Mitts. “I truly appreciate the women who paved the way, to my friends and dear teammates that I will never forget. I will miss the little things, the travel by plane, train and mini-van, the locker room moments, keeping my teammates on their toes and nothing will ever compare to putting on that U.S. jersey. It’s been an amazing journey with some obstacles, but in the very end I feel so fortunate that we were able to close on a golden note.”
Heather Mitts in a 2009 game with the Breakers
For the USA, she started 104 of her 137 games and played in her last match on Dec. 15, 2012, against China in Boca Raton, Fla., coming on in the last 15 minutes for Christie Rampone in the state where she had a highly successful college career.
The 5-foot-5 right back always played bigger than her size and after breaking into the U.S. team full-time in 2004, played almost every game for the USA through 2008, aside from when she was out injured. She was a First-Team All-American at the University of Florida where she helped the Gators to an NCAA title in 1998. She ended her college career as Florida’s all-time leader in games played, games started and minutes.
“Nothing worthwhile is ever easy,” said Mitts. “It’s a game but it’s something we all love to do. I will miss the camaraderie more than anything and the chance to compete every day to be the best in the world. My teammates were my bridesmaids, confidants, source of inspiration and family and always made me look good on the field. Soccer has given me so many opportunities and has been a positive and humbling teacher. I feel completely fulfilled and it’s that perfect time to move on. I leave with a smile on my face and happiness in my heart.”
Mitts, who played in both former professional leagues, for the Philadelphia Charge in the WUSA and the Boston Breakers, Philadelphia Independence and the Atlanta Beat in WPS, was allocated to the Boston Breakers for the new NWSL before deciding to retire.