The victorious U.S. players face a future full of questions, some major (Where to play?), some not so much (Where to hang another medal?)
THEY ARE the only three-time gold medalists in the history of Olympic soccer, men's or women's—Christie Rampone, Heather O'Reilly, Shannon Boxx and Heather Mitts—and last week they awoke with new challenges in the hours after the U.S.'s 2--1 victory over World Cup champion Japan. For Rampone, the 37-year-old captain, that meant spending the day with her daughters, six-year-old Rylie and two-year-old Reece, and perhaps looking ahead to the 2015 World Cup in Canada. "I still feel like I have more to give, whether it's behind the scenes or continuing on," says Rampone, who has remained a starter despite suffering from Lyme disease. "The team is trying to convince me to keep going. Another Olympics would be far-fetched, but maybe I could do another World Cup or go two more years, helping that next captain."
A new women's professional league announced last week that it plans to start play in 2013, and while the track record for such leagues is spotty—two have folded, in '03 and '12—the U.S. Soccer Federation is hoping that nearly all the American players will continue to ply their trade domestically instead of venturing abroad. Mitts, a 34-year-old right back who's married to St. Louis Rams quarterback A.J. Feeley, is retiring, but the other three-time gold medalists are interested in continuing. "I'm going to keep playing and see how it goes," says Boxx, a 35-year-old midfielder who started the gold medal match. "As long as my body continues to do well, I'd love to keep playing." Echoing those desires is O'Reilly, a 27-year-old winger who made two starts in the Olympics and had the assist on Alex Morgan's extra-time game-winner in the U.S.'s epic 4--3 semifinal win against Canada.
Of course, Rampone had more pressing concerns last week, like figuring out with her daughters which room of their Manasquan, N.J., house will be the home of her new gold medal. "I share them with everybody, so they're banged up," Rampone says of her trio of golds and her silver medal from 2000. "The ribbons are crazy," she said. Just then Rylie piped up: "There's some in the basement!" It's nice to have multiple options for multiple gold medals.
Heavy Mettle O'Reilly (far left) and Rampone (fourth from left) have been stalwarts on a squad that has won the last three Olympic tournaments.