Alex Morgan wasn’t even a starter last year when the U.S. women’s soccer team made its run through the World Cup. But Morgan’s star rose quickly after coming up clutch for the Americans, scoring the game-clinching goal against France.
It’s been an upward trajectory ever since for the 23-year-old Morgan.
After the World Cup she posed for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue covered only in body paint and cracked the Maxim Hot 100 list, USA Today noted. Her popularity has grown steadily, with her Twitter account gaining half a million followers.
Alex Morgan is just as hot on the field as she is off of it. In 42 international appearances she’s netted 27 goals, and going into the 2012 London Olympics she leads the team with 17 goals.
Morgan’s value to the U.S. team and her competitive spirit showed in an incident earlier this year. In an Olympic qualifying game against Mexico, head coach Pia Sundhage held Alex Morgan out of the game and afterward asked the forward how she felt about not playing
“To be honest, you really don’t want to know how I’m feeling,” Morgan told her.
Sundhage put Morgan into the starting lineup two games later, where she’s remained ever since.
The rise is even more impressive considering that Morgan didn’t even start playing club soccer until nine years ago, when she was 14. Already a standout in softball, basketball, and volleyball, it didn’t take Morgan long to make her mark in soccer as well. She attended a few U.S. Under 17 camps, but a knee injury kept her from the national scene until competing in the Under 20 World Cup in 2008, USA Today reported.
Alex Morgan has also helped expand the audience for women’s soccer, Sports Illustrated noted. Her SI spread and youthful good looks have introduced the sport to a new male audience while her trademark pink headband has now become the standard among the young girl soccer segment.
Though Alex Morgan’s marketing appeal is undeniable, after the Olympics are over she returns to an uncertain future. Her home in the Women’s Professional Soccer League is now gone after the league folded, and her options to play professionally in the United States are extremely limited.
But it’s not a big deal for her.
“All that is in my mind right now is the Olympics,” Alex Morgan said. “Anything that comes from that afterward, I’ll deal with then. I’m just trying to enjoy the moment.