Alex Morgan has been the face of the U.S. women’s soccer team since she burst onto the scene at the 2011 World Cup in Germany.

She ranks in the top 10 in USWNT history in goals (123), assists (53) and appearances (223).

Being one of the most elite strikers ariound the world for the entirety of her career thus far is no easy task for Morgan, but the key to her longevity lies in the balance of remaining healthy both physically and mentally.  

“It’s always a challenge for anyone that’s playing at this level for over 10 years, about 15 years now for myself, so I feel very fortunate, but taking care of my body is the most important thing, you know. Doing the small things before and after training, taking more time than most players, especially the players who are 20,” Morgan told NBC Olympics. “Mentality wise, there some richness to having so much experience on this team and kind of understanding the adjustment that things have, like when you get a new coach, when you have a lead up to the Olympics or another major tournament. That experience definitely brings some sort of calm and ease and a way that maybe a player going for the first time might not have.”

This mentality has taken the 34-year-old to some of the best teams in the National Women’s Soccer League and stints with Olympique Lyonnais in France and Tottenham Hotspur in England. On the international level, Morgan helped the U.S. win an Olympic gold medal in 2012 and the World Cup in 2015 and 2019. 

However, for the first time in her career, Morgan’s future with the national team was questioned after the 2023 World Cup. 

Finding her role in a new-look USWNT

The U.S. failed to win gold at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and was eliminated in the Round of 16 at the 2023 World Cup. Both moments signaled that other countries no longer feared playing the U.S. and the rest of the world caught up to, or even surpassed, what the U.S. had been accustomed to in terms of level of play.

At the Tokyo Games, the U.S. won three matches, tied one and lost two. During the tournament, Morgan scored two goals, one of which came in a penalty shootout. Then at the 2023 World Cup, the team only won one game out of a total of four and Morgan did not score a goal. 

The USWNT began to call up younger players to the squad after both tournaments in what has been widely regarded as a generational shift within the team. Aspects of the new-look team was on display at the 2023 World Cup with young stars Sophia Smith and Trinity Rodman receiving plenty of playing time. 

Fast forward to 2024 ahead of the Paris Olympics with new coach Emma Hayes at the helm and the average age of the team is 26 years old.

It initially appeared as if Morgan was beginning to be taken out of the picture for the U.S. after she was not called up to the 2023 Concacaf Women’s Gold Cup. However, due to Mia Fishel suffering an injury, Morgan was called up to take her place on the team.  

Morgan believes her experience has helped set her up for moments like this where it was almost a final chance to prove she still belongs with the team.

“At this point in my career, I know what I have to bring to the table and being confident in that,” the San Diego Wave forward said. “If that means that I fit into the puzzle in some way with the national team, then great. That’s always my goal. But if it doesn’t, it’s out of my control. I don’t make the decision on who’s on the roster. I feel like, for me, I was in a position where I went from being on the out to being in with the team within a minute’s time and I feel like the resilience that I’ve had to have in my career has kind of set me up for situations like this and to be able to adjust to changes on the fly.”

At the tournament, Morgan scored two goals and found her role within the new-look USWNT. 

Earlier in her career with the national team, Morgan used her pace to get on the end of crosses or through balls, run past defenders or take players one-on-one to score goals. Her role nowadays demands her to drop deeper into midfield from the striker position and help open up space for other players with more pace to run in behind, but she also scores goals by being a physical player inside the box. 

By adapting to the new style of play, Morgan fancies her chances of making the Olympic roster. 

“It’s all about the process, I still have to make the team and I still have to do everything that I can to help my team get to that gold medal game,” the Los Angeles, California native said. “It’s little by little, but I’m not losing sight of the process in between by focusing too much on the end goal.”

Competition in Paris

Morgan said she knows the U.S. is no longer the lone powerhouse in international women’s soccer ahead of the Paris Games.

Germany and Canada won gold at the 2016 and 2020 Olympics, respectively, while Spain won the 2023 World Cup. Furthermore, an American player has not won the Ballon d’Or Feminin since 2019, which is an award given to the best women’s player every year.

But for Morgan, there are other factors that have helped countries get stronger. 

“There are so many leagues in every country and opportunities to play year-round for female soccer players,” she said. “Just take the NWSL, for example, now salaries are higher, our league is around nine months from start to finish, which is the longest it’s ever been. So I feel like that stability helps with fitness, being informed and readiness for those major tournaments and we’re seeing those leagues all around the world now, not just two or three leagues around the world, but 10 to 15 quality leagues showing up all around the world in the recent five to 10 years.”

“The effect of that creates female soccer players who are playing longer in the game. They’re not retiring by the time they’re 24, 25 or 26,” Morgan added. “You’re seeing players play now until they’re 35 to 40 years old and that’s only increasing the competition and the quality of teams around the world. I think you’re gonna see that this summer with the Olympics, although there’s only 12 teams, those teams fought hard to get into the Olympics.”

The U.S. was drawn into Group B in the women's tournament and will be going up against Zambia, Germany and Australia. The latter two teams are in the top 15 of the latest FIFA Women’s World Rankings. 

Morgan knows her team will find out early if they still have what it takes to compete against some of the best teams across the world.

“I always want to play against good competition because opposing players and teams challenge me and the team to show up and be our best on that given day,” the former Tottenham Hotspur forward said. “If we’re not at our best, we could be beaten and we’ve seen that in recent years. We haven’t turned up as the best team in the last Olympics or the last World Cup. We want to get back to our winning ways but we know the competition is bigger than ever. I love to see that but it also puts the pressure back on us to be able to increase our level of play as well.”

The U.S. will play its first game at the Paris Olympics against Zambia on July 25, one day before the Opening Ceremony.

Eyes on the future

A lot has changed for Morgan off the field since the Tokyo Olympics. 

She is a mother to her 4-year-old daughter and started the Alex Morgan Foundation last year, which provides support, empowerment and an example for young girls and mothers in the San Diego area. The goal of the foundation is to leave a positive impact on women and girls across the world. 

For Morgan, these avenues of making a difference in people’s lives also contribute to her being one of the best players on the pitch.

“Soccer is not all of who I am, it’s not everything that I identify with,” she said. “I have a daughter and my family means so much to me. I have a lot of life outside of soccer and I think that steadiness allowed me to be my best on the soccer field and also allows me to not get too high or low based on results or goals, or lack thereof.”

After earning her spot back on the team heading into the Paris Games, Morgan also has her eyes set on the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics. 

She will be 38 when that edition of the Games arrives, but Morgan believes she will still have what it takes to keep competing at a high level to be with the national team. She was also part of the committee that helped bring the Olympics to Los Angeles and feels it’ll be a dream come true to compete at the Games hosted in her hometown. 

“It makes me very proud that we’re bringing the Games to the city that I grew up in and in the state that I’m so proud to live in. Of course, I would love to play in the Olympics in 2028, but regardless, I’m gonna be there. If I’m a fan or playing, I will be there supporting my city.” 

If Morgan decides to hang up her cleats before the 2028 Olympics, her impact on women’s soccer will not go unnoticed. She was one of the first female players to be on the cover of an EA Sports FIFA game in 2016 and has promoted awareness for equal pay among men and women soccer players in the U.S.

Morgan knows the impact she has made and hopes it creates a path for younger girls to continue making a difference within the sport.

“I’m incredibly proud of my contribution to growing the women’s game and growing women’s sports in general, both on and off the field, including the equal pay lawsuit,” she said. “But honestly, at the end of the day, you’re not gonna get those opportunities without showing up every day on the field, without having the wins on the highest level with the Olympics, with the World Cup, scoring goals, doing all those things. Doors aren’t going to open and opportunities aren’t going to come unless you’re doing your job on the field. I feel like I’ve tried to do that and prioritize that year after year.”

“Going on Year 15 of my time with the national team, I understand that I’m closer to the end than the beginning but it definitely makes me proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish with this team,” Morgan added. “My hope is that I share my impact and influences with this team to let them know that they’re gonna go on and do bigger and better things than I’ve ever been able to do.”