After playing the game of soccer for 28 years, one might guess that Carli Lloyd has seen and done it all. And they’d be right – mostly. But for Lloyd, all the honors, accolades and accomplishments – she was a four-time All-American at Rutgers, boasts 161 international appearances for the United States Women’s National Team, has two Olympic gold medals (in fact, Lloyd blasted the medal winning goals in both 2008 and 2012) and has scored 61 goals in international matches – she’s still got one more thing to check off the list.

Soccer’s big one – The World Cup.

Last summer, when the USMNT stole the hearts of Americans everywhere, Lloyd watched and waited. She, like the rest of her teammates on the women’s national team, would be aiming at the same prize in the summer of 2015.

With the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup on the horizon – and with the sport of soccer at an all-time high in terms of its popularity in America – who better to talk to? Here’s Lloyd on soccer, life and the pursuit of the one thing she still wants to see on her soccer résumé:


The 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup is right around the corner. Is it true that the World Cup is even more important to a soccer player than the Olympics?
Yes. They’re both an unbelievable honor to be a part of, but for a soccer player, this is kind of the end-all, be-all. This is the cream of the crop, playing on one of the biggest stages on the soccer platform and it’s every four years. Obviously with the history of this team, we haven’t won one since 1999, so this is it; this is what we live for.

This will be your third time competing for the USWNT in the World Cup and you have yet to win a title. Can you put into perspective what it would mean to you to win?
It’s something that is in the back of my mind that I want to accomplish. It’s not, “I wish to accomplish” – I want to accomplish this before my career is done. It’s great that I can call myself a two-time Olympian, but not having won a World Cup is kind of a last thing. This is every soccer player’s dream, playing in a World Cup and winning a World Cup. It’s the highest-level tournament you can play in and it would be an unbelievable accomplishment to add a third star to our jersey.

The U.S. will play in the infamous “Group of Death” against Nigeria, Australia and Sweden in this year’s World Cup. Experts say this was the hardest draw possible for the U.S. What was your reaction when you saw the draw?
I was excited. I think that a lot of people are grouping this as the Group of Death, but I don’t see it that way at all. It’s not going to be easy. Everything takes blood, sweat and tears. We’re not just going to roll through our group, but I wouldn’t want it that way. I would want it to be tough right from the start and get those engines going right away.

How do you feel about the American team heading in? Realistically, what are you chances to win it all?
We still have some work to do; we still have to tidy up some things. But I think we’re going to peak at the right moment. After that first game, I’ll definitely be able to tell if we’re in a good spot or not, but it’s not going to be easy. We’re going to have to sweat it out to finish first on that podium. I wouldn’t want it any other way. I like the famous quote, “There’s no elevator to success; you have to take the stairs.” We’ve got the mindset of “we’re going to win this thing” and if you don’t have that mindset and that attitude, your chances go down that much. We have that mentality; now, we just have to put everything together on the field.

Much to the USWNT’s disappointment, all 2015 Women’s World Cup games will be played on artificial turf, which has been a huge point of contention and a hot button topic. What challenges does playing on turf present?
It’s definitely going to change things. It will be really interesting to see what teams play better on turf or what teams maybe struggle. You have to factor in a lot of different things playing on turf. It’s a lot bouncier than playing on grass. Obviously there’s going to be a lot of scrapes and burns and it will be interesting to see how teams and certain players are recovering after playing on turf. I love the sliding celebration and I definitely won’t be doing that in Canada. It’s unfortunate that we’re going to be playing on (artificial) turf. That’s still a little bit of a nightmare and doesn’t feel like it’s actually going to happen, but it in fact is, and we just have to roll our sleeves up and get after it.

Have you and your teammates started to feel the “hype” around the World Cup yet?
As we get maybe a couple months out, I think we’ll feel that a lot more. But I think within our team, with the Fox Sports coverage and all the promos and photo shoots and commercials that we’re doing, it’s definitely getting us all hyped up and ready. But we still have a lot of work to do. Once we cross that border, it’s going to be all business. I’m going to feel the nerves and feel the excitement because it’s a really special time and something that you don’t ever want to take for granted because it’s an honor to be part of it.

In your opinion, do you feel that the 1999 World Cup win by the U.S. really put women’s soccer on the map? Was the catalyst for helping popularize the sport? Or is there another defining moment or event you feel did that?
The 1999 World Cup definitely changed a lot of things. But I also think there was a little bit of a lull again when the WUSA league folded. I would say it didn’t pick back up again until probably 2011, our World Cup, when we finished second. That was another major turning point in the USWNT history. The game against Brazil really enabled a lot of people to jump on the train and start to follow us because it was such a dramatic game. We used to barely get 5,000 people at some of our friendly games in the U.S. Now, we’re averaging probably 10-15,000, which is remarkable. This World Cup is going to be huge. It’s going to help continue to grow the game and if we win it, it will be even more remarkable for the game.

You wear the number 10, which is typically worn by the team leader, a key playmaker – “the quarterback,” if you will. You’re amongst great company when it comes to that number. Pele wore it. So did Diego Maradona. Lionel Messi and Wayne Rooney do, too. Talk about the significance of “the No. 10 role” in the game of soccer and what it means to you to have that honor.
No. 10 has been my number from growing up. And I had to obviously wait my time on the national team to have No. 10 open up with Aly Wagner having it. It’s an honor to wear that number. I look at all the players around the world that are in that jersey number and it’s pretty cool. It’s definitely an honor to be in that club and be able to represent my country and wear my favorite number. Players look to me to lead the team and to get things done. I feel that I have been able to lead by example on the field with my play and my work ethic.

I read somewhere that back when you were a teenager, you said this about players like Mia Hamm, Michelle Akers, Julie Foudy and Brandi Chastain: “What they did was amazing, and now it’s our turn. I’m able to play pro soccer because they paved the way for all of us. In 15 years, I hope it’s the same trend, and we’ve improved the game for another generation of girls.” In what ways do you feel that you and your teammates can improve or grow the game for the next wave of female soccer players?
What they did was amazing and an unbelievable accomplishment. They paved the way; they helped bring new things to the table. They enabled us to be able to have a contract under U.S. Soccer. They did a lot of good things. It’s our job now to pioneer the younger players that will be coming in and make it better than when we first came in and that’s definitely our goal. We have to do well in order for us to continue to pave the way. Fighting the turf battle that we recently tried to do for the World Cup was a step that all of us around the world thought highly of not playing on turf so we fought that. The game has evolved and changed so much, and there’s still that factor that we need to instill that “chip-on-your-shoulder” mentality that you’ll do anything to win.

Hope Solo, Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach are probably the most recognizable faces on the USWNT. Despite the fact that you wear the No. 10 jersey and have many noteworthy accomplishments with the team, you are not in the spotlight as much as those three. How do you feel about being labeled an “unsung hero” on this team?
I’m not a flashy player that needs attention or worries about my appearance. When I step on the field, I have a job to do and that’s to perform and win. As long as I’m doing that and staying consistent and helping the team, that’s all that really matters to me. But I know there are fans out there now who recognize my hard work. Once you start banging in some goals, people look at you a lot differently. Nothing’s really changed with my game, just position-wise, I’m a little bit closer to the goal, so I’m able to rack up some stats. But I’d rather people look back on my career and say, “Hey, she was a gun, she was a phenomenal soccer player” rather than, “Oh, she looked cute in her uniform.” Winning and performing at my best is really all that matters.

You’ve played against a lot of international competition during your pro career. From your perspective, what does the rest of the world think of U.S. women’s soccer?
I think that fans have been gravitating towards us. It’s not like we just have one household name on the team; there are many different stars. The fans go crazy over that. They love it. Playing in Brazil, I remember sticking around and signing autographs and, even though they weren’t from the U.S., fans loved having pictures with us, loved having things signed. It’s a lot of fun and that’s what we need to do no matter where we are. You’ve got to treat your fans respectfully even if they’re from a different country. Abby’s really, really popular in Japan. They love her there. In Brazil, fans were loving Hope. It’s great. This is what we like to see.

You have a very busy schedule playing for the national team, as well as for the Houston Dash in the National Women’s Soccer League. How are you able to juggle those commitments? Is there ever any down time or are you constantly on the go?
It’s really hard. It’s definitely something that you need to balance – taking care of your body, making good decisions, being a good role model. You miss out on a lot of things – weddings, funerals, holidays, birthdays. It’s tough, but it’s the nature of the job; we’re in a good place, doing something we love. Once you’re in that grind and in that routine of coming home for a week or two and packing back up again, you get used to it. And we do get four to six weeks off a year (from the national team), which is nice to be able to stay at home. You may get a couple days (off) here and there, but pretty much it’s non-stop.

You’ve said that your career highlight was winning a second gold medal in the 2012 Olympics. You’re not only a two-time gold medal winner, but you scored the gold-medal winning goal at both the 2008 and 2012 games. You’re the only player in history, male or female, to score in back-to-back Olympic finals. Explain what that means to you.
It’s great, but I want to accomplish a lot more and I keep grinding away every day. What I’ve accomplished in the past is kind of in the past. When my career’s over, I can look back and really enjoy those moments, but for now, it’s almost like you have to keep moving forward and looking forward. If you dwell too much on the past and what you’ve accomplished, you tend to get complacent and that’s not what I want to do.

Through coaching changes, injuries and even being benched for a short time, overall you’ve had an outstanding and lengthy run with the USWNT. To what do you attribute your success and longevity with the program?
I pride myself in taking care of my body – doing all the necessary things both on and off the field to continue to stay healthy and stay at my peak. My training regimen at home allows me to continue to break barriers with fitness. All that mixed in with the mental side of the game and just focusing on myself and not getting caught up in any drama has enabled me to keep going.

You’re a Jersey girl and a fan of the Philly sports teams. Who are your favorite teams to root for?
I follow the Eagles. I follow the Phillies. I don’t follow the NBA much. A little bit of hockey, but pretty much the Eagles and Phillies. They’re always letting us down year after year, which is always tough. I go to Phillies games; I threw out the first pitch there before. I like to try and get out to some of the games and support the local teams that I follow.

What does your life look like outside of soccer?
I just recently got engaged. We’re going to (get married) some time after the (2016) Olympics (in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil). I’m pretty low-key; I just spend time in New Jersey hanging out with friends and family, shopping, going to movies. I love my (TV) shows, which is always fun because we’re on the road a lot – Homeland, Shameless (are two favorites). (And) I enjoy reading good books.

You turn 33 this summer. Might this realistically be your last go-round at winning a World Cup?
I’m not really looking past the World Cup or the Olympics. I feel great. I feel healthy. I feel like I’m the fittest I’ve ever been. I’m just taking one event at a time and just seeing where things take me. I’m in a good spot and feel really good and that’s all that matters right now.