Hey, I’m Carli Lloyd
I grew up in Delran, NJ and I stated playing soccer at the age of 5. I was your typical tomboy growing up, playing any and all sports. Our neighborhood consisted of many kids all of whom loved to be outside. I played roller hockey, football, basketball, softball, soccer, volleyball and swimming and just about any and every sport I could. I loved being outside. I would come home from school, drop my book bag and immediately change into my athletic clothes and go outside.
My parents had an easy decision to make when it came to what sport I liked best. There was no question it was soccer. Everywhere I went I brought a soccer ball with me. I loved it. The ball was my life. My younger siblings and I used to play in our long hallway upstairs with a soft ball and I had no mercy on them. I wanted nothing but to win, it didn't matter who you were.
Life was easy when I was a child. There was no social media, no pressure to live up to certain standards. It was just me and the ball. I used to walk from my house to the local field named after Peter Vermes and take thousands of shots. I also would hop in with boys who were playing pick up games. My competitiveness and passion drove me.
I eventually left my town team and went to play for the Medford Strikers. We went on to win two state championships. It was some of the best memories I have had in my career being on that team.
Playing High School ball at Delran gave me the confidence I needed to go on to play for Rutgers University. My next goal was to play for the full women's national team.
Life was all good until I realized that playing with some of the best players on the Under-21 national team was a huge wake up call.
I was cut from the Under 21 Women’s National Soccer Team in 2002 and I realized things weren’t as simple and straightforward as they seemed.
I was devastated; I wanted to quit soccer for good. At that point, I was planning to get a ‘real’ job and move on with a normal life. But, life always takes a crazy turn when you expect it the least.
My dream of playing for the Women's national team was all I could think about. It was all about the passion and connection I had with the ball. It was what I loved to do.
In 2003 I realized that my talent alone wouldn't get me to the top. It would require hard work, dedication and complete sacrifice making soccer my #1 priority.
I had to learn to embrace challenges, to not point the finger at anyone else or make excuses. I had to condition my mind and body into working hard every single day. I had to turn my weaknesses into my strengths. This had to be my life 24/7.
This would be the formula to accomplish my dream of playing for the Women's national team.
There was no other way to become the best player in the world. In 2003, the dream and journey began.
Over the years, my confidence in myself and my abilities only grew stronger.
Throughout every obstacle in my journey or moment of doubt that I've had in my career, it made me hungrier to achieve more.
I learned how to get out of my own head and focus on what I can control and competing against myself
Doing whatever it takes to get the job done.
When I look at all the moments of joy and hardship, and I think about the FIFA World Cup and the Olympic Games, it reminds me of why I persevered through the challenges along the way...
Why I stayed on the soccer field long after practice at night.
Why I trained on holidays and in the snow.
Why I trained twice, even three times a day.
Why I sacrificed everything in my personal life...husband, family and friends.
Why I woke up early in the morning to get a workout in before the ‘normal’ day started.
Why I lived, breathed, and dedicated my life around soccer and always wanted to continue to achieve more.
All of this made me into who I am both on and off the field.
Ultimately, it hasn’t been an easy road by any means. But, without the continuous support of my family, closest friends and the ones who have genuinely been there for throughout the years, I wouldn’t have been able to go on, do all that I’ve done, and grow.
I am thankful to have them in my life.
It's So Hard To Say Goodbye...
They said I was too slow.
A turnover machine.
A defensive liability.
Only good at scoring goals.
Hard to manage.
A black hole.
A bad teammate.
And my personal favorite….
The weirdest world-class athlete ever.
I could go on and on. As a matter of fact, I actually keep a list of these little digs in the Notes app on my phone. It’s a long one. In my 17 years playing this beautiful game at the professional level, I’ve heard so many ugly things. A lot of athletes will tell you that they ignore the comments. That the words don’t sting. That it’s all just white noise. Well, I’m telling you now, as I prepare to say goodbye, that some of those words hurt me deeply.
I am — and I know this might come as a shock to some people — a human being. I’ve felt every emotion you can feel in this game. I’ve felt the highest highs, but I’ve also been sad, anxious, depressed, devastated, defeated. I’ve felt not worthy. I’ve felt misunderstood. I’ve felt everything.
And it’s funny because I know that when people hear the name Carli Lloyd, they probably think about someone who is ice cold. A killer. Maybe even a robot. But that’s not me. That’s never been me. I feel like that Carli Lloyd, the killer, was almost like a mask that I had to put on in order to survive all the things that were being thrown my way.
The thing the grown-ups don’t tell you when you’re a kid with a dream is that it’s not really about the ball. That’s the easy part. The game is the game. But the other game? The one that happens off the field? That game is a whole different beast. The politics, the media, the favoritism, the fakeness, the jealousy, the opinions, the travel, the empty hotel rooms, the loneliness, the unrelenting grind, the injuries, the slights, the disappointments….
It’s only a matter of time. Eventually, this game will break you.
The question — maybe the only question that matters — is whether or not you’re able to use the pain and the heartbreak as fuel.
I’ll never forget when I had a meeting with my first coach on the USWNT before the 2007 World Cup and he asked me what my goals were. And at that point, I was still a kid. A nobody. A bench player. I think I had scored once in my first 24 matches. And so, my coach asked me, “What’s your goal?”
I said, “I want to become the best player in the world.”
He just started chuckling. He thought I was either joking or delusional. And I don’t know why, but that moment really marked me. It made me realize how people saw me. I was never “in the plans.” I was never meant to be in the spotlight or on the cover of the magazines. I certainly was never meant to be the face of U.S. women’s soccer.
I was supposed to be a squad player. I was supposed to be a below average player. I was never meant for greatness, in the eyes of a lot of people.
I was just Carli Lloyd. Laser focused, with a chip on my shoulder, trying to prove people wrong. I made it my mission in life to make every single person eat their words. To do the impossible.
It's so surreal to me now when people show me all this love. When I see little girls holding up my jersey in the crowd. Or when I see people call me one of the GOATs, one of the legends of this game. A decade ago, I was so far away from that.
I had just missed my PK in the 2011 World Cup final, and then I’d gotten benched right before the 2012 London Olympics. In that moment, I actually thought my national team career was over. The coaching staff was doubting me. I was bottling up everything inside, not talking to anyone about the pressure I was feeling. And then one day I was doing a workout in the gym in my garage, and out of nowhere, I just started bawling. Everything became too overwhelming, and I broke. I probably cried for two or three days out in that garage, going through my workouts all alone, feeling like my time was up.
The fear of not knowing my future was eating away at my core.
But I still kept getting up every morning when the alarm went off. I kept dragging myself into the garage, onto the field and onto the track. I kept training three times a day before I left for London. Sometimes I was sobbing, feeling worthless, feeling like I was done. But I kept putting one foot in front of the other. I stayed the course.
And that’s the thing. I truly don’t think people understand the sacrifices involved in pursuing greatness, especially in sports, especially in soccer. It’s a trade-off. And it’s not a very fair one. You trade literally everything in your life — your significant other, your friends, your family, your free time, anything else you ever loved to do — and in return you get the chance to maybe, if everything goes right, represent your country in a World Cup or an Olympics every four years.
I put all my chips in. I had just turned 30. And it looked like it was over.
The only reason that my journey turned out the way it did was because of an injury. Shannon Boxx went down 16 minutes into the first match at the Olympics against France, and Pia called me off the bench. I didn’t even have a second to warm up. I had to seize the opportunity. This was my moment. This was my turning point. I never looked back from that point on. In fact, I never came off the field again in that tournament.
The rest, as they say, is history. I scored two goals in the final and we won gold. Three years later, at the World Cup, I scored a hat trick in the final against Japan, and all of a sudden, people were calling me “the GOAT.” I was America’s hero. I was in the spotlight. On the magazine covers. The late-night shows. I was this person that everyone wanted to talk to, overnight.
And it’s still so surreal to me, because three years before that, I was in my garage crying my eyes out, feeling like I was a failure, feeling like the dream was over.
I was not supposed to be who I became.
It wasn’t in the script.
And that’s what made it all so sweet.
You know, it’s really hard to say goodbye. It’s tough to find the right words. I’ve thought a lot about what I wanted to leave everybody with, as I prepare to pull on this national team jersey one last time. How can I sum up what 17 years actually feels like, and what it means to me?
The word that I keep coming back to is hard.
It wasn’t a fairy tale.
It was really freaking hard.
And that’s the thing….
People see the glory. They see the parades. But they don’t see everything that goes into it.
Every single woman who pulls on that USWNT jersey and represents their country, they have sacrificed things that you wouldn’t imagine. We give our lives over to this game. Personally, I have gone through a lot of tough times. I have witnessed people close to me take advantage of me for their own benefit, I have been brainwashed and manipulated by some, and I even became separated from my family for 12 years — missing out on so many things.
I put off starting a family. I put off having any semblance of a normal life. I gave every ounce of myself to this game for 17 straight years — never ever switching off.
And you know what? I would do it all again. In an instant.
Call me what you will.
A black hole.
The weirdest world-class athlete ever.
Say whatever you want. But just know that I gave you everything I had. I didn’t take any shortcuts. I didn’t kiss anybody’s ass. I was never anything but my true self.
When I said that I wanted to be great, they couldn’t help but laugh. They rolled their eyes. They thought I was delusional. They tried to hold me down.
But the girl from Jersey kept grinding.
She never quit.
She became a World Cup champion.
She became an Olympic gold medalist.
She became the best player in the world.
She wrote her own script.
She proved ‘em all wrong.
My Top Achievements
- 316 Caps- Second All-time internationally
- 134 Goals- Third All-time in USWNT history
- 64 Assists- Sixth All-time in USWNT history
- 8 Hat Tricks- Tied for most All-Time in USWNT history
- 21,572 Minutes Played- Fourth All-time in USWNT history
Since turning 30, has scored 98 goals in 181 games over a span of a little more than nine years. No female player in the history of international soccer has scored more goals after their 30th birthday
Has started 241 of 316 caps, coming off the bench 75 times
180 international games played after the age of 30 are also most in USWNT history
- Oldest player to score five goals in a single game friendly (39 years)
- Oldest player to score a hat trick for the USWNT (36 years, 83 days)
- 4-Time Olympian (2008, 2012, 2016, 2020)
- All-time leading scorer in USWNT Olympic history (10)
- Third USWNT All-time in World Cup goals (10)
- First USWNT player to score in four different Olympics (2008, 2012, 2016, 2020)
- Has Scored in every Olympic medal match, including the 2008 gold medal match against Brazil, a brace in the 2012 gold medal game against Japan and a brace in the 2020 Bronze medal game against Australia
Played in more World Cup (25) and Olympic matches (22) than any other player in USWNT History
At the age of 39, becomes the oldest USWNT player to go to the Olympics
- On 14 June 2021, became the oldest USWNT at 38 years and 332 days to score in a 4–0 win over Jamaica
The oldest USWNT player ever to lead the USA in scoring in a calendar year, having scored 16 goals in 2019 and ending the year at 37.5 years of age
Women's Player of the Decade, voted by Fox Soccer Fans
- Two-Time FIFA Women’s World Cup Champion (2015, 2019)
- Became the first player to score in six straight Women's World Cup games (2015, 2019)
- FA Cup Champion (Manchester City Women) (2017)
- Inductee to New Jersey Hall of Fame (2017)
- FIFA World Player of the Year (2016)
- Nominee for ESPY Award for Best Championship Performance (2016)
- FIFA FIFPro World XI (2016)
- Named Co-caption (2016)
- FIFA Women’s World Cup Golden Ball (2015)
- FIFA Women’s World Cup Silver Boot (2015)
- FIFA Women’s World Cup All-Star Team (2015)
- FIFA Women’s World Cup Goal of the Tournament (2015)
- FIFA World Player of the Year (2015)
- U.S. Soccer Player of the Year (2015)
- Became the first player in FIFA Women’s World Cup to Score a Hat Trick in a Final (2015)
- CONCACAF Goal of the Year (2015)
- CONCACAF Women’s Player of the Year (2015)
- March of Dimes Foundation Sportswoman of the Year (2015)
- Women’s Sports Foundation Sportswoman of the year (2015)
- CONCACAF Women’s Championship MVP (2014)
- Rutgers University Hall of Distinguished Alumni (2013)
- Two Time Olympic Gold Medalist (2008, 2012)
- Bleacher Report Top 100 Athletes of (2012)
- Glamour Women of the Year (2012)
- FIFA World Player of the Year Shortlist (2012)
- Candidate for U.S. Soccer Player of the Year (2012)
- NJ Youth Soccer Hall of Fame (2012)
- NJ Sportswriters Woman of the Year (2012)
- U.S. Soccer Player of the Year (2008)
- Algarve Cup MVP & Top Goal Scorer (2007)
The Chapters of my Life
- Born on July 16, 1982
- 17 years with the U.S. Women’s National Team (2005 - 2021)
- In 2013, I was allocated to the Western New York Flash for the inaugural season of the NWSL and helped my team win the regular season championship. After two seasons with the Flash, I was traded to Houston Dash prior to the 2015 season. I went on loan in 2017 to play for Manchester City Women where we went on to win the FA Cup. In 2018 I got traded to Sky Blue before the 2018 season which was renamed to Gotham FC in the 2021 season
- Previously played for the Chicago Red Stars (2009), Sky Blue FC (2010), and Atlanta Beat (2011) in the Women's Professional Soccer (WPS) league with it folding after the 2011 season
- Played for U.S. Women’s U-21 National Team (2002-2005)
- Went to Rutgers University (2001-2004); Graduated in 2005 with a degree in Exercise Science and Sports Studies
- Went to Delran High School (1997-2001)
- Married my high school sweetheart Brian Hollins in 2016 and reside in NJ
- It's So Hard To Say Goodbye..by Carli Lloyd
- Published my New York Times best seller memoir “When Nobody Was Watching.” (September 2016)
- Named Member and co-Chair of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition by President Barack Obama (2016)