'A different outlook, a different journey' - USWNT star Alex Morgan on the World Cup, motherhood, growing up and explaining to her daughter why she can't always play with Megan Rapinoe

Alex Morgan World Cup GFX
Ahead of this summer's tournament, the American star sat down with GOAL to discuss life, lessons and parenting while playing at an elite level

It's all starting to click for Charlie Carrasco. At three years old, she's beginning to get a grasp of the world around her, in between the seemingly endless questions that come into her head throughout the day. It's gotten to a point where young Charlie is starting to realize that her mommy is just a little bit different than the others that she's met in her three whole years on this earth.

When she gets dropped off at school, her mom drives off to soccer practice, not for fun, but for work. Charlie gets to go on road trips and, after most games, she gets to run on the field and kick the ball around in front of thousands of cheering fans. She's seen her mom collect trophies and honors while scoring more goals than she can count at this stage of her life.

Charlie's mom is, of course, Alex Morgan, one of the most famous players the U.S. women's national team has ever produced. She's a World Cup winner, an icon, an inspiration to countless little girls from Charlie's age right on up. And now, Charlie is, slowly, starting to realize that her mom is someone special.

"She's starting to ask questions," Morgan tells GOAL with a smile while promoting her latest campaign with Orgain ahead of the World Cup. "She asks a lot of questions about mom and soccer and just, in general, life. I think she's figuring out so much more each day and she's just asking so many questions."

The questions are coming thick and fast now as Morgan prepares for this summer's World Cup, the fourth of her career. It will be her first since becoming a mother, the latest achievement to add to her resume since she and her husband, ex-MLS star Servando Carrasco, welcomed Charlie into the world.

She's already scored more goals than any other mother in USWNT history. She's played in the Olympics, won an NWSL Golden Boot, and been named to the FIFPro Women's World XI twice. Motherhood hasn't slowed Morgan down. Not in the slightest.

What it has done, though, is change her perspective. Once a nervous kid that felt totally overwhelmed by playing on the big stage, Morgan heads into her fourth World Cup with a new outlook on life. Part is that is due to her experience; she does have 206 caps and 121 goals (and counting) to her name.

But the other part of that is due to Charlie. Since welcoming her daughter into the world, Morgan sees life in a different light. The big moments, like a World Cup, are just as big, of course, but those small moments seem just a bit bigger as well.

Ahead of the World Cup, Morgan sat down with GOAL to discuss motherhood, the World Cup and everything in between as she prepares for another chance at history with the USWNT...

  1. A different outlook

    A different outlook

    It feels so long ago, given all that has happened in the years since, but there was once a time when Morgan felt overwhelmed by it all. Her first chance to play on the big stage came all the way back in 2011, when she, at just 22, was the youngest USWNT player called up for that summer's World Cup. She had earned her first USWNT cap in March 2010, scored her first goal in October, helped the U.S. book their World Cup spot in November and, by the next July, she was a key player as the USWNT looked to retain their spot as the most dominant women's soccer team on planet earth.

    It didn't go to plan. The U.S. fell to Japan in a famous final, one which saw Morgan provide a goal and an assist. She scored twice in that tournament, good for second-most on the team, and she never looked shaken by the occasion of it all.

    Now, 12 years later, she can admit that she was, in fact, shaken at some points. She admits to being a bit consumed by the moment, the spectacle, the chance at immortality. She admits that the Alex Morgan that became a household name that summer in Germany is much different than the one that remains one heading into this summer in Australia and New Zealand.

    "Going into my first major tournament, I was very wide-eyed and super anxious and so overly-critical of myself in moments that I needed to be more forgiving of myself and give myself more grace," Morgan tells GOAL. "It goes from playing and missing a shot to feeling like you said something wrong to the media.

    "When you get into a major tournament, you're going to already have so much criticism from the outside, you don't need it from inside. The last thing you need is to be self critical. You need to have almost like a full thinking-forward mindset and like a forgetfulness. The last shot, the last game, it's behind you. You have an opportunity coming up."

    She continues: "I think that, going into this World Cup, the level of excitement is there, just as much as my first one, but definitely the outlook and the anxiousness and the feeling of kind of being overwhelmed is a little bit at bay."

    Now in her 30s and with a family of her own, Morgan has been blessed by perspective, experience and, most importantly, a little bit of balance.

    "If you are going through group stages or knockout stages and you're still there, you're doing something right," she says. "And so you don't need to be critical of yourself in that moment. You've prepared all before and done all the 99 percent to show that one percent to the rest of the world and you could be critical of yourself during that 99 percent, but once you get to the top, this is your time to enjoy and to shine.

    "I think that that's where I could have learned a little bit more in my first or second go around."

  2. Lessons from 2016

    Lessons from 2016

    Morgan already has two World Cup trophies on her resume, having been part of the team that won it all in 2015 and 2019. The U.S. are among the favorites this summer, too, as they look for a historic three-peat, an almost unfathomable achievement given the rising level of women's soccer.

    However, like many major athletes, Morgan is quick to admit that she still looks back on her failures, even though there have only been a few of them.

    The biggest lesson of her career came in 2016. One year prior, she was on top of the world, having lifted her first World Cup. The U.S. went into the Olympics as favorites once again with a chance for Morgan to add another major win to her resume.

    And then thud. That infamous loss to Sweden, a loss that Morgan says motivated her for years to come. Her missed penalty haunted her and gave her the first real crossroads moment of her career.

    "I do think that losing teaches you so much that has helped, that makes winning worth it so much more," she says. "After feeling like we're on top of the world in 2015, we lost in the quarters, which was our worst exit ever in the Olympics against Sweden in penalties. I felt like that was definitely a reflection moment for me in years after that."

    It took a few years for her to get over it, but she did. The 2019 World Cup was her chance at redemption, her chance to prove that, after winning the World Cup as a youngster in 2011, she could also win it as a leader and focal point.

    The U.S., of course, triumphed in France, with Morgan finishing level on six goals with Megan Rapinoe and Ellen White as the tournament's joint-top scorer.

    "To come back from[2016]," she begins, "to feel confident to do penalties, to feel like I can lead the team both on and off the field and recover from a hard loss like that, I feel like in 2019, it was an incredibly special moment for the team, just coming back from that loss and knowing how hard we all individually and collectively worked for that.

    "So yeah, just moving forward, I think there's definitely reflection points and I think like having those failures along the way are important to kind of just honoring and valuing the peaks."

  3. An impossible choice now possible

    An impossible choice now possible

    There was once a time where female athletes faced a choice: career or family. You could have one or the other, but not both. The support simply wasn't there and, because of that, you had to make that impossible choice.

    Those days are long gone now, and a simple look at the USWNT proves it. Back in March, the USWNT had five mothers in camp, a sign of the times where women don't necessarily give up competing at a high level when they choose to start a family.

    Morgan herself became a mother in 2020 after announcing in 2019, shortly after the World Cup win, that she and her husband were expecting a baby girl. While pregnant, she missed the 2020 CONCACAF Olympic qualifiers and the 2020 SheBelieves Cup, but returned to the national team in November 2020 for a friendly against the Netherlands. It had been just 509 days since Morgan last played for the U.S., topping the same opponent in the 2019 World Cup final.

    In June 2021, she was in the U.S. squad for the Olympics, where she took home a bronze medal. In the years since, Charlie has been an ever-present junior member of the USWNT, often seen in and around the national team environment.

    But Morgan doesn't forget that it wasn't always that way for her predecessors, many of whom didn't have the opportunities she has now.

    "Myself and so many other female athletes and moms now have fought so hard for support as moms and continuing our job as a professional athlete," Morgan said. "Serena Williams and Allyson Felix are two who have continued to fight for women to stay in the game as well as expand their family, but when I look at who has inspired me, I look at who I played with previously, like Christie Rampone, who was able to do it for so many years with so much less support than even now, or Joy Fawcett."

    Morgan points to her work as a member of the NWSL Players Association and the national team CBA Committee as an important part of her life. With those groups, she's fought for support for mothers around the league and national team. She points to how the number of mothers in the NWSL has doubled in the last 18 months.

    "Our jobs become increasingly difficult having children on the road and also having to compete at a high level, trying to fight for our spot in the national team and fighting for our position on each team and so just kind of having that support, it's very necessary," Morgan says. "It's just shown that if you do have the correct support and you are able to compete and still focus on everything, both soccer and being a mom, that you can really do it all and I am definitely benefiting from that now and it's great to kind of be able to do both."

  4. Training room jungle gyms and a little bit of perspective

    Training room jungle gyms and a little bit of perspective

    Charlie, of course, is one of several kids running around at USWNT camp. She was on hand earlier this year when Morgan was honored for her 200th cap, with Charlie giving her mom a rose in the pre-game ceremony in a moment as wholesome as you'll ever see.

    The assistance of the USWNT staff makes Morgan's life much easier when it comes to taking Charlie on the road, but credit also falls to her teammates, who all seemingly thrive in the role as de-facto aunts whenever international games come around.

    Motherhood has also given Morgan, and her teammates, a new perspective. In a world as cut throat and competitive as elite-level soccer, the presence of the young ones adds some much needed humanity to it all. And with humanity comes perspective, something which is easy to lose in a World Cup year where little else seems to matter other than the next game.

    "It's just leaning on each other definitely and knowing that our teammates who aren't moms are also just incredibly supportive," she says. "They also love to hang out with the kids and the training room sometimes becomes a jungle gym in a way.

    "Just knowing that it is kind of a shining light for the national team to have kids around because we're in this pressure situation, fighting for a spot on the team every single day we're in with the national team, and so just to bring in the human aspect of it and be able to get outside of soccer and thinking about soccer all the time while away on these trips with the national team and having our kids around, it kind of just makes everyone laugh more and think a little bit less about soccer, stress a little bit less.

    "I'd say that everyone within the team and all the staff really do enjoy having the kids around."

    There are the good moments, of course, but Morgan says it's equally important that her and her team-mates are there for the bad ones. Parenthood isn't easy, as any parent can attest to, and learning on the go while also under the microscope with the national team takes a toll on all involved.

    Because of that, teammates often become part of a support group. Any problem, big or small, is open for discussion.

    "With all of the moms on the national team, we have all reached out to each other in vulnerable times to ask for support and ask questions and kind of just see how each other is doing things," Morgan says. "Like logistically in how they bring the child, what did they sleep in, what kind of stroller or car seat or whatever, to other just pieces of support.

    "We can do it and we're so much stronger than sometimes we think. Even after a couple hours of sleep, we can go out and compete at the highest level still."

  5. Why can't mom play with Megan Rapinoe all the time?

    Why can't mom play with Megan Rapinoe all the time?

    In the years since her introduction to her mother's team-mates, Charlie, too, has had to learn some lessons. One of the harshest? The one where she finally discovered that her mom won't always be on the same team as her other favorite players.

    "Having to explain to her that Megan Rapinoe doesn't play for mom's San Diego team but does play for mom's national team team," Morgan says. "One of her favorites, Emily Fox, she's not able to see every day but then she gets to see her with the national team."

    Charlie, though, has mostly adjusted to the good parts of national team life. She's enjoyed running on the field a few times and has been seen kicking the ball around with her mom plenty of times. She's still adjusting to hearing fans call for Alex Morgan, the superstar she only knows as her mother.

    "She loves, after the game, saying 'There's so many people yelling for Alex Morgan but you're mommy!', so just kind of seeing that click a little bit more," Morgan adds. "With me, saying every morning after dropping her off at preschool that I'm going to soccer practice, that's mom's job and that I'm not just going out there for fun, although I do love it as well."

  6. Time to enjoy

    Time to enjoy

    Since her rise 12 years ago, the biggest lesson Morgan has learned is the importance of balance. Motherhood was a big factor in that, as raising a young one makes career obsession almost impossible. It almost makes that type of life feel a bit more hollow; there are more important things in the world, after all.

    Because of that, Morgan says she now has a stronger relationship with the game of soccer, simply because there are times where she can put that relationship to the side. When she comes home from training, she isn't consumed by it. There are other things she has in her life now.

    "I take pride in like the balance of my life and just really appreciating my support system, my husband, my family, my friends, those who really uplift me in my most vulnerable times," she says. "And I really think that my mental well-being is something that I've really worked on in the last couple of years, just thinking about wellness and thinking about where I am and where I want to be in that reflection is important.

    "Partnering with Orgain in this campaign that we have leading into the World Cup, it's great to have a partner like them that really helped me stay focused on my wellness and looking at a product and a brand that not only focuses on professional athletes, but for the whole family is nice because I kind of wear so many hats: being a mom, being a professional athlete, being a huge advocate for gender equality.

    "It's important to not be overwhelmed in all those situations and take care of myself along the way and I think that just wellness is something that I could share with everyone, that it's important to take care of yourself no matter what. Regardless of if you're a professional athlete or not, that's something that you can always be a little more in control of... A little bit goes a long way."

    Morgan will hope to lead the U.S. a long way this summer at the World Cup. They'll face Vietnam, the Netherlands and Portugal in the group stage and, from there, who knows? Maybe Morgan will lift her third World Cup trophy, or maybe it'll be someone else's time to shine on the biggest stage in women's soccer.

    Regardless of what happens, Morgan is ready to enjoy the moment. She's not as nervous as she once was. She's prepared and she's excited to take part in her fourth World Cup.

    It'll be her first with a little one by her side, and Charlie will no doubt spend the coming weeks and months quizzing her mom about every little thing. And Morgan will enjoy that part of it, too. That's what life is about, after all.

    "It's kind of a little bit of a different outlook and a little bit of a different journey this go around," she says. "But I think that this is the right mindset for me in where I am right now.

    "Now, I just am starting to wonder, not just now, but have realized throughout this journey that it's the time to have fun. You're not going to prepare any more. Once you get to big tournaments, that already happened. Now, it's time to enjoy."