Carli Lloyd has had one of the most spectacular careers in soccer history.
A two-time women’s world player of the year, a two-time World Cup champion and the only player to score the winning goal in two Olympics, Lloyd planned to make the Tokyo Games her curtain call.
On Tuesday those plans changed.
With the International Olympic Committee and the Japanese government announcing they are postponing the Games because of the coronavirus outbreak, Lloyd now will stick around another year in the hope she can grab one more gold medal.
“I believe it was the right decision to make,” Lloyd said of delaying the Games. “This unprecedented pandemic is bigger than sports. People’s lives have been lost, the virus continues to spread and our healthcare systems are overloaded.”
U.S. Soccer also applauded the IOC’s announcement.
“I think it’s a great decision,” said federation President Cindy Parlow Cone, who played in three Olympics, including the first women’s tournament in 1996. “We don’t want to put anyone’s health at risk. Our athletes’ or the fans’ that would be going over to Japan.
“I was in communication with the players and the coaches to see what their sense of it was. And the decision that the IOC came out with … is right in line with what the athletes and coaches were thinking.”
Lloyd’s thinking now has her coming back for at least another year.
“I was going to take it to this summer’s Olympics and then see where I was mentally and physically,” said Lloyd, who will turn 38 in July. “I wasn’t sure when I would officially retire. So now I have the opportunity to stick around for another year and it would be a dream come true to win gold with my teammates.
“That would be satisfying enough for me to officially retire.”
The next Olympics, whenever they are played, would be a record-tying fourth for Lloyd, whose 16 appearances in Olympic competition is tied for second in U.S. history behind Christine Rampone’s 22. Lloyd’s eight goals are the most by an American. And she’s played well the last two years, leading the U.S. with 18 scores despite coming off the bench in 15 of her 29 appearances.
“I love playing for my country in World Cups and Olympics,” Lloyd said. “Competition is what drives me. The Olympics are special and always have been to me. I am looking forward to continuing the preparation.”
She’s received added playing time this year with Alex Morgan sidelined awaiting the birth of her first child. Morgan was hoping to return in time to compete for a spot on the Olympic team; Tuesday’s postponement gives her an additional year to prepare.
This was expected to be the deepest women’s field in Olympic history. Including the U.S., eight of the 10 countries that have qualified for the 12-team Olympic tournament played in the knockout rounds in last summer’s Women’s World Cup in France.
But their preparations for Tokyo were upended by the coronavirus. The U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan all canceled scheduled spring friendlies.
On the men’s side, the only confederation that hasn’t finished its qualifying tournament is CONCACAF, whose eight-team competition, featuring the U.S. and Mexico, was scheduled to open last week in Guadalajara. That was postponed earlier this month and no new dates have been selected.
“It’s different on the men’s side than the women’s side because the men still have to go through qualification,” Cone said. “So there are a lot of questions we will try to [answer] in a short period of time.”
The men’s tournament is an age-group competition in the Olympics. The U.S., which has played in the Summer Games just once since 2000, has perhaps its deepest U-23 player pool in a generation, one that includes Christian Pulisic, Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie and Sergiño Dest. All will still be age-eligible for the Olympics in summer 2021.