In 2012, it was announced that Seattle would be one of the cities with a team for the inaugural season of the National Women's Soccer League. That team would go on to be called the Seattle Reign FC, and like most teams being built from scratch and set to create a new identity, stars are needed to build the foundation. Megan Rapinoe was one of those stars, and yet the growth she's had professionally and personally is something she never saw coming when she got the word she was playing for Seattle.
"I was pissed actually."
In 2012, Megan Rapinoe was playing at Olympiue Lyonnais and while she was there she got the news that she was being allocated to the Seattle Reign FC for the inaugural season of the NWSL in 2013. She was not pleased with the news. At the time it was US, Canada, and Mexico internationals involved in the NWSL Player Allocation and all eligible players were asked to list which four teams they wanted to play for. For Rapinoe, it was no-brainer that Portland would be first on her list. The University of Portland alumna had roots there and sought to strengthen them. So to get the news that you were allocated to your second-choice city/team and knowing you had a European campaign to finish first, it's understandable to not be happy. However when she finally did arrive at Seattle, things changed for the better.
"As soon as I got here, it just clicked."
Rapinoe officially joined Seattle Reign FC midway through the 2013 season. With a double under her belt (won the Division 1 Féminine and Coupe de France Féminine with Lyon) and runner-up in the UEFA Women's Champions League, the in-form Rapinoe instantly made the Reign FC better. Her second start for the Reign brought the club's first victory and when she finally got to meet head coach Laura Harvey face to face, she saw the program Laura was building to and what she wanted out of Rapinoe. A lunch with owners Bill and Teresa Predmore at the end of the season proved to be a pivotal moment in which Rapinoe expressed that she was all in on being a member of Seattle Reign FC. She told them at this lunch, “This was home now. This is where I know I needed to be.”
"I feel really at home — I feel like I can grow and just be myself."
Ask Megan Rapinoe about everything that's happened with her life professionally and personally and she says it's been "kind of a wild ride." Her accomplishments on the field ever since she joined the NWSL are the stuff dreams are made of. And remember she was well accomplished before the NWSL and Seattle Reign FC would become a part of her life. Off the field, utilizing the platform she has as a professional athlete, knowing how many people look and listen to her, the social issues that matter to her, this is something Rapinoe never saw coming when she looks back on that inaugural season. However it's the freedom for her to explore these endeavors off the field that is a testament to the culture that Harvey and the Predmores have created in ensuring Reign FC players & staff are treated like professionals on and off the field.
"(Laura) just gets it. As a human being, first and foremost, she just gets it. That's something that's so enjoyable to have. Especially in a start-up league, there's a lot of shenanigans happening all the time. Obviously we have to deal with a lot of stuff that a league after 10, 15 years wouldn't have to deal with and we all understand that; she just gets the whole picture and is really able to make all the players feel I think comfortable and wanted in such a great environment that we have."
It should come as no surprise that Rapinoe would have pretty much the same outlook on what it's like playing for Laura Harvey that the other Reign FC Originals have when they reflect on the five years they've been here.
In 2011 and 2012, people already knew your name. Your efforts on the field at the World Cup and summer Olympics became highlight reels. You then come into a brand new league, unsure of how this new team you're joining would play and what the coach's philosophy would be. However, you are in such good form that you instantly help turn the team around. Then you realize that the program the coach and owners are building here is something you agree with.
It might be crazy to think but your time with the team since that first year has made you into a bigger star. The accomplishments and accolades on the field are what any soccer player desires for and your individual game grows leaps and bounds. Especially given today, there's very few soccer players in the world playing better than you are.
Your life off the field has grown in ways you could not have imagined back in 2013. People applaud your efforts for advocacy of LGBT equality and solidarity of supporting other athletes who use their celebrity platform to speak on social issues like racial inequality and police brutality. You know that your celebrity profile wields an incredible amount of power in terms of influencing others, so to try and make it be for something good so others can help their communities. For you, it is just as important as training day in and day out to perfect that cross into the penalty box so it finds a teammate and slides into the goal. All of it’d possible because, while you initially didn't want to come here, you realized that the people that brought you here want you to be happy as a soccer player and as a human being.
You are Megan Rapinoe, a Reign FC Original.
Full interview with Rapinoe is below and as much as she reflects on the five years she's been with Seattle, she also talks about the new faces on the squad, how they contribute now and their development for the future. The interview closes with maybe a hint of what could be next for the life and career of Megan Rapinoe.
(And join us in wishing a very happy birthday to Megan Rapinoe, who turns 32 today.)