We've been doing this gig for a long time now; we've sat down with hundreds of footballers, from the young and eager to the experienced and uninterested, but rarely have we met a footballer so articulate, positively inspiring and honest as Megan Rapinoe. The USWNT World Cup Winner has a real presence and a real influence. Always spearheading a movement for change and striding for better, we sit down with her at Nike's WWC19 Innovation Event in Paris.

Rapinoe's CV of medals is well stocked, but the physical accolades are just a small representation of a player whose biggest achievements wouldn't fit inside a trophy cabinet. She's as passionate about the progression of the game she loves as she is about representing her nation, and it's straight after this landmark event powered by Nike where we get her thoughts on change, winning and what's to come.

Megan, how was that? It looked incredibly powerful...

I know! We actually only did it in our individual group when we rehearsed, so I didn’t actually know it was going to be everyone on stage all at the same moment like that, so as it started happening I was like oh shit… I was like oh wow! They had all the kids out and the other athletes with the designer dresses and all the models and it was so powerful.

You’ll be arriving in France as a world champion in the summer. How does that feel?

Good! But the medals and the trophy and everything will be at home so we’re arriving with a whole new task. The team feels very different as well. Obviously from 2011 to 2015 it was much of the same team, much of the same faces, but this just feels like a completely different team. It’s so many people’s first experience too, so in that way it’s going to be really cool because it’s this whole new, fresh start.

Was there more expectation and pressure arriving in 2015... on the back of 2011, or this time around coming to defend it?

To be on the US team is pressure, just in general. We’re expected to win every single game and even when we win it’s not good enough in someway, for ourselves and for everyone else. So honestly, the pressure’s probably the same because it’s win or bust in every aspect. I think the way that we lost in 2011 was just gut wrenching, so that fire burned, but now it’s like this whole new challenge, like oh, can we go back to back? 

Always hungry…

Yeah, always hungry for the next challenge. We want to win every game, and back to back World Cups would be pretty dope.


What was it like in the changing room after the 2011 defeat?

Oh fucking pissed. Actually it was more heartbreaking than that. It was also this weird dual feeling because Japan were great and they had this incredible story-esque run in the World Cup, obviously on the back of the tragedy with the tsunami that hit so, in a way it was almost fate and you can't argue with the way that they won. But we were on the other side of it and we were up 2-1 with, like, one second to go so it was just gut-wrenching.

Did it make 2015 even more sweet, or was there like a sense of relief almost, that you had done it?

It did feel like a relief to be honest. I think because we have so much pressure on us all the time, always expected to win, so when you do win it’s kind of like you were supposed to and you completed the task you were setting out to do. But I think over time, as it sunken, in the weeks after, you just continued to feel full with joy the whole time. Honestly, in the moment, I was just like, oh we won! 

In the space of three years you became an Olympic Champion and a World Champion. Do you feel more content with your career now?

No, not really. Actually it did the opposite because I’ve seen how all of that triggered changed and how the sport grew, how the money grew, how more people came and watched our games – it’s almost intoxicating in that way. It was a very visceral feeling of how important winning is and how much change it could bring about. You just want to keep doing this again. And obviously the competitive side, you want to win everything. I always say this: I’m so lucky to be on this team. We have a lot of winning feelings and we’re very lucky for that. Winning is progression, if we keep winning US Women’s soccer progresses on and off the pitch.

This year, as you said, you’ve got a lot of younger players coming through. Do you feel more responsibility to tell them about the World Cup and give them advice, or do you wait for them to make their own experiences?

I think it’s basically half and half. If there’s something I can tell them that I know will help them, or just my experience or little things I’ve picked up on the way, absolutely. But I remember back to my first World Cup and you just want to live it and enjoy it. There’s just some things that I probably wouldn’t do now and that I wouldn’t get as excited about now just because I’ve been there, but the kids are going to be so pumped about it. And that part of it, that free, unbridled joy, is something that we need in the World Cup.

I think sometimes being an older player you know too much in your head. So they’re going to be the ones that keep us fresh and keep all the laughs going. Plus they just have more energy than I do! So they’ll just do their thing and we’ll just follow along.


They come around so infrequently and a storyline can change in a split second: a mis-timed pass… does it feel like that when you’re playing, does it feel like you’re one second away from glory or one second away from complete heartbreak?

Absolutely. Especially in these tight games, it’s just on a razors edge. Even just looking back to the last World Cup, we’re playing against Germany and they have a penalty at 0-0 in the 70th minute or something, and she misses. And in that moment you’re like God, I hope she misses, but she’s probably not going to. So then we’re going to have to find a way back but just those snap decisions or a great save. In the span of fifteen minutes Carli Lloyd has a hat-trick in the World Cup Final. It’s crazy how it just changes like that. Such fine lines.

How do you compare your mentality going into your first World Cup with this summer?

Oh I think my mentality is so much better. I just know how to focus better and understand the game better. In a sense it was nice because I just didn’t think that much, you’d just go out and play. But I think taking that intentional focus and just taking that intentionality into the game has really taken my game to the next level.

Is there an element of relief going into this World Cup knowing you’ve already won it, knowing it could potentially be your last one?

Not really. I feel like I have won, but that was that one. And it does feel far away in a sense and I also feel in a bigger perspective off-field, understanding how important it is and how powerful it is to win and how that moves the needle on things, especially with the things that we’re fighting for.

So understanding the importance and the impact that a World Cup can have I think just makes me hungry for so much more and just from a competitive perspective I don’t want anyone else to have one. I mean I definitely don’t want any of these girls here to have the feeling I have. I hope they have bitter defeat the whole time. You have to be ruthless as a team.


We were speaking to Sam Kerr earlier and she said that although you’re rivals, it does feel like you have so much respect for one another because, in a way, you're on the same team as you all want the same things. Do you feel that?

Absolutely, like one hundred percent. I love that she said that, that’s such a wise thing from her, because we really are. I think, like the lawsuit that we’ve filed, the things that we stand up for, the way they stood up to their federation, the way Norway did too… you can tell that there’s such a connected community in women’s football and in amongst all the teams and it’s like, if the World Cup in France blows up and it’s a huge hit – someone will win and that’s amazing – but no matter what, it will be good for everyone and we’ll push the game so much further forward.

You’ve been a prominent figure in Nike’s campaigns. How important is the work they’re doing within women’s football with events like this?

It’s massive. Obviously they’re the biggest brand and the most recognisable brand, so to put that weight behind it signals to every other brand that this is what’s up. This is what you should be doing. Also it shows that the potential is here, it’s not just like this philanthropic effort, it’s the best event and they believe in it and they’re putting their best people to it. [Nike CEO] Mark Parker was here today, and that’s amazing. So to have the support that we’ve always had from Nike frankly, they’ve been such a front runner in all this, it’s just incredible.

To be backed by a brand like Nike is just, you know that they’re in for corner, it’s like having Mike Tyson in your corner, like the heaviest hitter that you can have in your corner. 

You’ve played in France for Lyon. What do you expect the country to be like as a host nation?

I’ll expect a very warm welcome! I think I made a good impression on them while I was here. I think they enjoyed my candour! I think it will be brilliant to be honest. I think coming off the men winning the World Cup last year, it was amazing for them and I think in terms of fan experience I think it’s going to be the best by far, it’s going to be incredible. It’s a smaller country as well, so it’s easier to get around, everyone wants to come to France.

People will be eating the best food and drinking the best wine and just enjoying themselves, so that makes it better for us. If the fans are enjoying themselves then our experience on the field is better. Beautiful stadiums too. Obviously the new stadium at Lyon is just absolutely gorgeous, it’s just going to be such a great host in so many ways.


When you speak to older ex-players, do you ever feel like they envy what you have now, because they built it, they’re part of the story, but now you’re benefitting from bigger TV coverage, big stadiums etc?

It’s interesting. I actually feel it a little bit with them. I just want younger players to appreciate how far it has come and appreciate where we’ve been. For me sometimes I’m like “you don’t know how good you have it” to the younger players, so I always try to make sure the older players know how appreciated they are for the work they have done in allowing us to enjoy the benefits of their work.

If they didn’t do what they did, the likes of Brandi [Chastain] and Mia [Hamm] and all those guys, then we wouldn’t be sitting here now, we don’t have what we have and we’re not as successful as we are. I think they look at it like, damn, I wish I was playing now but also I think they should have an incredible amount of pride. They still play a part in our success.


Check out the full Nike WWC 2019 Paris Innovation Event here.