FRANKFURT, Germany – Christie Rampone believes her status as the "Supermom" of United States soccer has helped her chances of lifting the World Cup trophy on Sunday.
Rampone is the only mother on the USA team, having given birth to Rylie, 5, and 1-year-old Reece before returning to her role as team captain, and she is playing some of the best soccer of her career.
The 36-year-old Rampone will play her last-ever World Cup game during Sunday's final against Japan, and she insists the pressures of motherhood have made her an even better player.
"Being a mom, you enjoy the game even more," Rampone told Yahoo! Sports. "Doing two things that I love makes it easier as an athlete and it has made me stronger. After a bad day I can't afford to dwell on it because I have the kids, they don't care if I have won or lost, they still want Mom.
"That helps your mentality, it adds some perspective. I don't sweat the small stuff. You don't take every practice home with you. The only way to handle it is to give 100 percent on the field, and then 100 percent to my other job."
Rampone's husband, Chris, has remained at home with their children, but she has maintained contact with family life by after every game or training session with lengthy Skype chats back home.
In between, Rampone also plays a mentoring role with several younger members of the USA squad, having a wealth of experience built up from having played in four World Cups and three Olympic Games.
Rampone's dual role has been a source of inspiration to many of her teammates, who marvel at the way she organizes her time.
"She is my hero and a great role model," said midfielder Megan Rapinoe. "She is Supermom, Superwoman, whatever you want to call her. When I get home from training I want to pass out in my bed, she has to look after her kids every day. I don't know how she juggles it."
There is some scientific evidence to suggest that pregnancy can actually have a positive physical effect for athletes, with a 2007 study revealing that the process can increase blood volume in the body by up to 60 percent – boosting oxygen flow to the muscles. Rapinoe describes Rampone as the "best athlete on the squad. She is a machine."
During the Beijing Olympics in 2008, when the side won the gold medal, Rampone's older daughter was present and participated in the celebrations following a victory over Brazil in the final.
"The kids are like part of the team when they are around," said defender Rachel Buehler, who is expected to return to the starting lineup after serving a suspension in the semifinal. "It is like they have become part of our own family, we see them as like our own little sisters or cousins and we have a great time with them."
Rampone is bidding to become the first USA captain since Carla Overbeck in 1999 to lift the World Cup trophy. And barring a huge upset she is relishing the chance to bring the Cup back home.
"I miss the kids and I can't wait to be back with them," she said. "Hopefully I will have a gold medal to show them very soon, and when they are older tell them about the day their mom won the World Cup."
- Christie Rampone