Sam Mewis Announces Retirement from Soccer Due to Injury and Her Next Chapter: ‘Really Grateful’ (Exclusive)

The NWSL star will be the editor-in-chief of a new vertical focused on women's global soccer

<p>Naomi Baker - FIFA/FIFA via Getty</p> Sam Mewis of the USA poses with the Women

Naomi Baker - FIFA/FIFA via Getty

Sam Mewis of the USA poses with the Women's World Cup trophy after the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup

World Cup champion Sam Mewis is retiring from soccer for an exciting new role focused on women's sports, she tells PEOPLE.

In a "very emotional" decision, Mewis, 31, says she's hanging up her cleats after almost a decade in the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) and a 2019 World Cup win due to a lingering injury to her knee.

"I think that my injury, unfortunately, just doesn't allow me to play at the level that I would need to play at, and it's taken me a really long time to accept that that is the case," Mewis, who played for the Brittany Mahomes-owned Kansas City Current and the U.S. Women's National Team, tells PEOPLE.

In Jan. 2023, Mewis underwent a second surgery on her knee following an initial concern stemming from a 2017 injury that kept her sidelined for six months.

"It's been a long road for sure, and it's been really emotional, and a lot of ups and downs," she explains, adding that her "next chapter" is "definitely an up" after the emotional decision to retire.

Luckily, soccer fans won't have to go far to keep up with Mewis' next chapter.

Related: USWNT Stars and Sisters Kristie and Sam Mewis on Inspiring Each Other on Journey to Olympics

The NWSL star, who was drafted fourth overall by the Western New York Flash in 2015, says she's transitioning into an exciting new role as editor-in-chief of The Women's Game, a new vertical for the Men in Blazers Network covering women's soccer around the globe.

"I feel really grateful that I have something so awesome to look forward to, even though I'm sad about closing this last chapter," Mewis shares.

Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Samantha Mewis
Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Samantha Mewis

"I'm really excited about the project and what we can do, and I feel really confident that this is the right place to do it because Men in Blazers have been so supportive of this opportunity for growth and for this broad range of coverage. It's a big endeavor, but I think that we have all the people in place to make it happen," says Mewis.

"I think that there was a lot of resistance to soccer in America for a lot of years," she explains, adding that Men in Blazers has done "an incredible job" of "bringing such a joy and passion to talking about the game."

Mewis continues, "So I think, similarly, American soccer fans know the US Women's National Team, and maybe they know the NWSL, but there are so many stories that occasionally we'll latch onto. Stories from the World Cup or from these teams who are fighting for equal pay, or things like that that I want to centralize and really bring them to life to, hopefully, a global audience."

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Although she's excited for the next chapter, and feels "like it's just the right decision" to transition into her role, Mewis says it was "hard" to realize her playing career was finished.

"I think that the closest people in my life saw it coming and started being on the same page with me over the last couple of months," she says, naming her parents, husband Pat Johnson and her sister, newly-crowned NWSL champion Kristie Mewis.

Kristie and Sam Mewis
Kristie and Sam Mewis

Related: Soccer Player Kristie Mewis Engaged to Sam Kerr: 'She's Just Been Everything to Me' (Exclusive)

"I think we all together slowly came to the realization. But once it was official that I was going to work with Men in Blazers and announce my retirement, I started reaching out to more teammates and friends and family, just wanting them to hear it from me first. Most of the people in my life know, and some of that was hard, too, because nobody really wanted this," Mewis says.

Closing the chapter on her competitive soccer career, Mewis wants to thank her fans for their years of support. "To sum it up, I think that I have been so fortunate. Even though this time has been difficult and the ending is not what I would've chosen, from such a young age, I was supported by coaches, teammates, my parents and my family."

Mewis continues, "Then as I grew into a National Team player, the fans who would support were just incredible. I think that my connections with people, my teammates, coaches, friends, the fans is what really made this so special and what really makes it so hard to lose."

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