U.S. women's national team superstar Carli Lloyd put the realities of being a woman athlete into sharp perspective while being inexplicably compared to NFL quarterback Tom Brady.
Lloyd is on a farewell tour that's already one for the ages after her five goals against Paraguay last week in Cleveland. The USWNT's fall friendlies continue against Paraguay again Tuesday night in Cincinnati.
The superstar striker, who announced her retirement in August, spoke with with the GOAL podcast "All of US: The U.S. Women's Soccer Show", about her decision to retire and the reality of being the sudden face of the USWNT.
Lloyd on why she decided to retire now
Lloyd, 39, was asked about her decision to retire now despite still playing at a high level for the national team and her NWSL club, NJ/NY Gotham FC. But the question held an addendum at the end comparing her to the 44-year-old Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback who is also still thriving.
"Why not stick it out? Why not basically be Tom Brady?" co-host Seth Vertelney asked.
Lloyd didn't miss a step in replying.
"Well, Tom Brady doesn't have to have kids," she said. "That's the one thing for starters. My husband, Brian, and I are eventually going to start a family so the clock's kind of ticking on that."
After briefly acknowledging that aspect of the question, she continued with a really thoughtful response on chasing goals that she heard on Peter Crone's podcast.
"He says, 'How can you continue to climb the mountain that doesn't actually have a top?" Lloyd said on the GOAL podcast. "And I'm like, wow, that just rung so true to me. Because if I had a goal of like, I want to win a World Cup, well then why wouldn't I be done after a World Cup? Or I want to win an Olympics, why wouldn't I be done after an Olympics? But it's been this climb to just keep climbing and keep just overcoming this, your potential, and just making my potential what I want my potential to be. It's been an unbelievable journey."
Lloyd-Brady comparison an unnecessary one
Brady, who has three children, didn't need to be pulled into this at all. And he's far from the only professional athlete playing into their 40s (though he's arguably the most noticeable). But he was mentioned, and so Lloyd gave the honest and truthful reply.
When and how to have children is a reality for working women to consider, and particularly ones who live in four-year windows of athletic competition. For the USWNT, it's more like two years with World Cups and Olympics. What are you willing to miss? It's a question Lloyd has had to ask herself for a decade now.
Maternity benefits and childcare offerings have expanded for women who do decide to have children while playing professional sports. It's easier now to have a child while playing than when Lloyd first broke onto the team in 2005. Alex Morgan, 32, gave birth to her daughter, Charlie, in May 2020 and returned to soccer. Sydney Leroux, 31, did so twice. It's not easy, but it's certainly easier now with support systems in sports.
That's also not a path everyone wants to take. Lloyd's path to motherhood is her decision. No argument changes the fact that women do have to take it into account if they want to have kids, when they can do it, and how they want to tackle the responsibilities that come with it. That's not a factor for Brady, who might only miss some practices or a game when his child is born.
Lloyd reflects on doing it all
Lloyd also dove into another reality of being a star player on the women's side. There aren't as many sponsorship opportunities, and certainly not in the first decade of her career, so when she got the offers she took them.
That meant she was constantly running, or flying, around trying to fit it all in. She said she had to miss some things and was flying in and out of NWSL games while doing a book tour, worrying about long-term planning and thinking about family. But, she lamented on the podcast, no one asked why she was doing it all. And it led to criticisms that weren't fair.
“They just had to dive into the negative of thinking that I don't care about the NWSL and I don't care about performing.
“It was actually extremely, extremely difficult for me because I was having to find ways to train, often times in a hotel, run up and down hotel stairwells while I'm on appearances and juggle life, NWSL, national team, performing and then all my off the field opportunities. No one asked me that.”
The USWNT legend has 133 goals, ranking third in USWNT history, and 64 assists in 313 appearances. She has the second-most caps behind Kristine Lilly, who played in 354 matches. She was part of back-to-back World Cup victories and is a four-time Olympian, winning two golds and the 2020 bronze in Tokyo.