Last Friday, Alex Morgan took the field for the USWNT for the first time in more than 16 months, subbing on in the second half against the Netherlands. With that appearance, Morgan became the 13th mom to earn a cap for the US women’s national team. So it is only appropriate Keeper Notes republishes a popular article from spring 2016, with some updates from the original version.
For more than 25 years, USWNT players have demonstrated that having a baby doesn’t necessarily end a professional soccer career – and in some cases, those new moms have come back to the pitch with a vengeance, as in the case of Amy Rodriguez’s 13-goal NWSL season in 2014 after having her first kid. So in honor Alex Morgan’s return to field after giving birth to daughter Charlie, here’s an unofficial power ranking of all USWNT pregnancies of players who earned a cap *after* having a child.
1. JOY FAWCETT
239 caps, 27 goals
WWC: 1991, 1995, 1999, 2003
Olympics: 1996, 2000, 2004
Known as the original USWNT soccer mom, defender Joy Fawcett set the standard for coming back to the team after having a kid. Just weeks after giving birth to her first daughter Katey in 1994, she practiced with the USWNT. Not only did she make the 1995 WWC team the following year, she also made the next two Women’s World Cup squads after having her second daughter Carli (1997) and third daughter Maddie (2001). Fawcett played on three consecutive Olympic squads, and converted the second penalty kick in the 1999 WWC final shootout. Side note: Fawcett’s eldest daughter Katey played for the Washington Huskies.
2. CHRISTIE RAMPONE
311 caps, 4 goals
WWC: 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015
Olympics: 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012
Defender Christie Rampone twice took a break from international soccer to have a baby – daughter Rylie in 2005 and then daughter Reece in 2010. Both times she returned to the USWNT and made the squad for the following Women’s World Cup and Olympic tournaments. In 2015 she became the oldest field player to appear in a World Cup final (women’s or men’s) at age 40. She served as USWNT captain from 2008 to 2015, and also won the inaugural WPS championship game in 2009 as captain & coach of Sky Blue FC (and oh yeah, she was three months pregnant at time).
3. CARLA OVERBECK
168 caps, 7 goals
WWC: 1991, 1995, 1999
Olympics: 1996, 2000
Overbeck was captain of the 1999 USWNT that won the Women’s World Cup, taking the first kick in the famous PK shootout at the Rose Bowl. She had followed Joy Fawcett’s lead and had her first child in the “off-season” between the 1996 Olympics and the 1999 WWC tourney – son Jackson in 1997. Althought she retired from international play at the end of 2000, she played all three seasons in the WUSA, coming back for the final season in 2003 after the birth of daughter Carson that spring. Overbeck has been assistant coach for Duke soccer since 1992.
4. AMY RODRIGUEZ
132 caps, 30 goals
WWC: 2011, 2015
Olympics: 2008, 2012
The USWNT striker missed the inaugural NWSL season in 2013 due to her first pregnancy. Rodriguez gave birth to son Ryan that summer, and after being traded to FC Kansas City from Seattle for the 2014 season, she tore up the field, scoring 13 goals in 22 regular season games. She also scored the game-winner in the NWSL championship game in both 2014 and 2015. Rodriguez returned to USWNT play in 2014, and earned a spot on the 2015 WWC squad, appearing in two matches in Canada. Rodriguez sat out 2016 to have her second son Wyatt, and returned again in 2017 to earn her final international cap in early April before tearing her ACL a few weeks later. She still plays with Utah in NWSL, and is the club’s all-time leading scorer.
5. KATE MARKGRAF
201 caps, 1 goal
WWC: 1999, 2003, 2007
Olympics: 2000, 2004, 2008
Markgraf was a fixture on the USWNT backline from 1998 until she stepped away from the game to have her first child, son Keegan, in 2006. She returned to play as a starter in both the 2007 Women’s World Cup and the 2008 Olympics. In summer 2009, she gave birth to twins, then once again returned to the field, playing the 2010 WPS season with the Chicago Red Stars. Markgraf earned her final USWNT caps in the summer of 2010, becoming one of just 11 players in the history of the team to pass the 200-cap mark. The USWNT rule about providing salary for players on maternity leave is casually known as the Markgraf Rule. Last year she named first-ever general manager of the USWNT.
6. KRISTINE LILLY
354 caps, 130 goals
WWC: 1991, 1995, 1999, 2003, 2007
Olympics: 1996, 2000, 2004
Earning her first USWNT cap just days after her 16th birthday, Kristine Lilly played until she was 39 – and likely would have continued if she had not missed the 2011 Women’s World Cup due to the birth of her second daughter. She had already missed the 2008 Olympics for the birth of her first daughter at the age of 37, but came back to earn multiple caps for the team in 2009 and 2010, including caps in WWC qualifying games. Lilly holds the world record for most international caps (male or female) with 354, and is fourth on the all-time international scoring list with 130 goals (behind Wambach, Sinclair and Hamm).
7. STEPH COX
WWC: 2007, 2011
Steph Cox (née Lopez) earned a spot on the 2007 Women’s World Cup team at the age of 21, and won a gold medal with the squad at the 2008 Olympics. She was also a member of the 2011 WWC team. Cox didn’t make the 2012 Olympic team, and gave birth to daughter Kaylee in spring 2013. She returned to the field that summer, suiting up for the Seattle Reign in NWSL, and earned additional caps for the USWNT in late 2013 and 2014. She retired in 2015 and gave birth to second daughter Grace … and then un-retired in 2019 to suit up for the Reign, where she had been working as assistant coach. She continued playing for the renamed OL Reign in 2020, starting 4 of 5 matches at the Challenge Cup and playing every minute of the NWSL Fall Series.
8. SHANNON BOXX
195 caps, 27 goals
WWC: 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015
Olympics: 2004, 2008, 2012
Shannon Boxx was planning on heading to grad school in the fall of 2003, but the FIFA Women’s World Cup got in the way. After three solid seasons in the WUSA, Boxx earned her first call-up to a USWNT camp and was named to the 2003 USWNT squad for the Women’s World Cup before earning her first cap (the only player in USWNT history to do so). After three WWC tourneys and three Olympics, Boxx gave birth to her daughter Zoe in 2014 at the age of 36, and returned in 2015 to make the USWNT for the 2015 Women’s World Cup. She retired that fall.
9. DANIELLE FOTOPOULOS
35 caps, 16 goals
Twice Danielle Fotopoulos came back from an ACL injury to make the USWNT, and twice she came back from having a baby to earn more caps. Fotopoulos first tore her ACL in a 1997 national team camp, but bounced back and earned a spot on the team that won the 1999 Women’s World Cup. Cut from the team when April Heinrichs took over in early 2000, Fotopoulos gave birth to daughter Lexi that year, but returned to play all three seasons in the WUSA and earn USWNT caps in 2002.
She tore her ACL again in 2003 and gave birth to son Will in 2004, but came back again to earn more caps in 2005 under coach Greg Ryan. After tearing her ACL for a third time in 2006, she retired from soccer. Fotopoulos still holds the NCAA record for total career goals (118), and scored the game-winning goal in the 1998 NCAA final, leading Florida to its first NCAA title.
10. JESSICA McDONALD
19 caps, 4 goals
McDonald is just the second USWNT player (after Tina Ellertson, below) to earn her first cap after becoming a mom, and she’s the 5th oldest player to earn a first cap for the Americans (age 28 years, 9 months in November 2016). One of the top all-time scorers in NWSL, it wasn’t until her breakout season in 2018, when she led the North Carolina Courage to its first NWSL championship win. She scored two goals in that 3-0 win over Portland and earned MVP honors — and more importantly, another call-up by the USWNT. She earned a spot on the 2019 Women’s World Cup roster and made one appearance in the group stage. McDonald gave birth to son Jeremiah between her stints in the WPS (2010) and NWSL (2013-present).
11. SYDNEY LEROUX
77 caps, 35 goals
Leroux burst onto the international soccer scene at age 18, helping the U-20 USWNT win the 2008 U-20 Women’s World Cup in Chile and nabbing both the Golden Boot and Golden Ball awards. Just a few years later Leroux earned her first senior USWNT cap and then a spot on the 2012 Olympic team that won gold in London. In 2015, she was one of the youngest players on the team that won the Women’s World Cup, but she missed the 2016 Olympic tournament that followed to give birth to son Cassius. She returned in 2017 to earn two more caps for the USWNT, twice coming on as a sub in the Tournament of Nations. Leroux gave birth to daughter Roux in summer 2019 and returned to the field in NWSL play that fall. Also of note: Leroux was the first to score a hat trick in NWSL play (for Boston in 2013), and holds the USWNT record for most goals scored by a substitute (14 in 2012).
12. TINA ELLERTSON
34 caps, 1 goal
Tina Ellertson had been accepted to Santa Clara University when she learned she was pregnant. She had daughter Mackenzie and then joined the varsity team at the University of Washington, where she was teammates with Hope Solo. The pair led the Huskies to the program’s only Elite Eight appearance in the NCAA tournament (2004). Ellertson earned a spot on the 2007 Women’s World Cup team, but missed the 2008 Olympics when she became pregnant with her second child. She returned for the team’s Victory Tour that fall, earning her final USWNT caps and scoring her first and only international goal. Ellertson played in the inaugural season of NWSL, helping the Portland Thorns win the 2013 title. Soon we may see the first USWNT daughter in NWSL, as Mackenzie Frimpong-Ellertson is a rising star at Washington State.
13. ALEX MORGAN 170 caps, 107 goals WWC: 2011, 2015, 2019 Olympics: 2012, 2016 This soccer mom will very likely shoot up this list once the USWNT continues play in 2021. She already has two Women’s World Cup titles (plus a U-20 WWC title), Olympic gold, a Champions League winner’s medal and two US pro leagues titles on her resume. She scored her milestone 100th international goal in April 2019 and then matched a USWNT tem record at the World Cup by scoring 5 goals in one game. Currently on loan with Tottenham in the FA WSL, Morgan is expected to rejoin Orlando Pride in the NWSL in the spring.