Julie Ertz to play final USWNT match Sept. 21 vs. South Africa: What’s her legacy?

U.S. women’s national team legend Julie Ertz will play her final international match with the squad against South Africa on Sept. 21 at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati, U.S. Soccer announced Thursday. Here’s what you need to know:

The Athletic’s instant analysis:

What’s Ertz’s legacy?

Defensive midfielders don’t always get a lot of credit, but Ertz made sure everyone realized how important the role was during the 2019 World Cup. Her shift from center back to DM to center back again for this World Cup showed just how crucial she was to this era of the USWNT, and provided one of the bright spots for the team in New Zealand and Australia alongside Naomi Girma.

Her legacy goes beyond the senior team though, as one of a few players who also won a youth World Cup with the under-20s in 2012. Best known for her physicality, her ability to shut down opposing players with a perfect tackle and her raging competitiveness, Ertz reflects this closing era of the USWNT’s dominance and ruthlessness — in all the best ways. While her return for the 2023 World Cup was a surprise one, her retirement had felt more imminent than most following the last Olympics. — Linehan

What Ertz said

“I expected to just walk away after retirement, but to have the opportunity to say goodbye to my teammates and the fans one last time is something special that many players dream of,” Ertz said in a statement. “I wasn’t expecting this honor so I’m very thankful to (interim head coach) Twila (Kilgore) and to U.S. Soccer for giving me the chance to close this chapter of my life with those who have made this journey so memorable.”


Ertz, 31, has recorded 20 goals in her career with Team USA. She was named U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year in 2017 and 2019, and helped lead the USWNT to World Cup titles in 2015 and 2019. She also spent eight seasons in the NWSL, playing seven years with the Chicago Red Stars and most recently appearing with Angel City FC in 2023.

Ertz was sidelined for 18 months following the 2021 Olympics due to injuries and the birth of her son, but came back in time to play in the 2023 Women’s World Cup. She was named to the USWNT roster for April camp, less than a year after giving birth, and played every minute of the Americans’ four matches in New Zealand and Australia over the summer.

Following captain Becky Sauerbrunn’s injury that kept her off the World Cup squad, Ertz, known as a world-class midfielder, was tasked with playing center back for the Americans. After the team’s loss to Sweden in the round of 16, Ertz alluded to her impending retirement.

“I think for me it’s just emotional because it’s probably my last game ever being to able to have the honor to wear this crest, so I think it’s just … it’s just tough,” Ertz said. “I feel like it’s just an emotional time. It absolutely sucks. Penalties are the worst. But it’s an honor to represent this team, and I’m excited for the future of the girls.”

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(Photo: Richard Callis / ISI Photos / Getty Images)

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