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Commentary: For future of the sport, Wambach needs to play for Reign FC this season

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We start with the most overlooked local sports trade of the year, until now: The Seattle Reign FC, acquiring the rights to Abby Wambach in March, despite her intention to take this entire season off.

Now that the Women’s World Cup is over, it’s time for Wambach to play: This season. In Seattle. Starting next week.

It was an amazing sight to see Wambach finally win her first World Cup. But while I understand that Wambach is in the twilight of her career and likely needs time to decompress after another emotional tournament, I also believe that it`s her responsibility as the longtime face of U.S. Women`s soccer to strike while the iron is hot - to make herself as visible as possible in the immediate aftermath of the World Cup in a professional league that continues to build its foundation.

I don’t need to remind anyone that we’ve now watched two women’s pro soccer leagues fold since the U.S. won its last World Cup in 1999. And while the Reign FC is now a part of the most promising league to date, Wambach’s presence this summer is needed.

This is hardly a slight to Hope Solo and Megan Rapinoe, who are set to return to the Reign next week. We can all be very excited to see them both so quickly in Seattle. But it also eliminates any excuse Wambach might have for taking the rest of the season off. She’s the all-time leading goal scorer in women’s international soccer – and she’ll have many years of retirement to rest. Now is not that time.

Now is the time to get in front of as many young soccer fans as possible. To be seen – to set that example for future generations – to continue to grow the game.

This is much more than a selfish request from a sports anchor who obviously wants another national team player on a local team. It runs much deeper than that. It comes with the lasting image of Rapinoe’s cross and Wambach’s header against Brazil four years ago – and the hope of seeing those two reconnect in a similar way at Memorial Stadium. It comes with the fact that Seattle continues to be the epicenter of American soccer, with the prospect of adding Wambach to a list that already includes Clint Dempsey, Rapinoe and Solo.

But most of all, it comes with the desire to help women’s professional soccer succeed outside of an Olympic or World Cup year - one that is aided by the posterchildren of the sport maximizing every opportunity to help make it work.

Abby Wambach has that chance – by suiting up for the Reign this year. I really hope she realizes that too.

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