Landon Donovan, the most celebrated player in US soccer history, will retire at the end of the MLS season. The 32-year-old striker made the announcement in an open letter published on the LA Galaxy website.
"After careful deliberations and many conversations with those closest to me, I have decided that this will be my last season as a professional soccer player," he wrote.
"I don't write these words lightly and this day carries mixed emotions for me. I am sad to leave a profession that has brought me so much joy. ... However, after spending half my life as a professional soccer player, I am excited to begin a new chapter and pursue other opportunities that will challenge me and allow me to grow as a person."
"I feel incredibly blessed and lucky to have played a role in the remarkable growth of MLS and US soccer during my playing career. And while my career as a player will soon be over, rest assured I will stay connected on many levels to the beautiful game."
While Donovan said he would personally thank those close to him that have helped him achieve his significant accomplishments, he cited the fans as the primary reason soccer is beginning to thrive in the US.
"I want to single out the fans. You are the lifeblood of this sport, and without you, none of us would be fortunate to call ourselves professional soccer players in MLS."
Current Galaxy coach and former national team coach Bruce Arena called Donovan one of the "most significant figures in the history of soccer in the United States. As both a player and a person, Landon has been an incredible representative of the LA Galaxy, MLS and the US men's national team, and it has been my honor coaching him."
Donovan is the all-time leading goal scorer for the MLS (138), holds the US national team records for goals (57) and assists (58), and he's made three World Cup appearances as a striker for the red, white and blue. His 156 appearances for the national team are the second-most in history. Donovan made the All-Star team all 14 years he spent in the MLS, capping it off with a goal in last night's 2-1 MLS victory over Bayern Munich. The tally underscored the soft-spoken forward's tenacity in front of the net.
A favorite Landon Donovan stat: he has 58 #USMNT assists, more than the next three Americans COMBINED.— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) August 7, 2014
Donovan scored a US-record five goals throughout the 2002, 2006 and 2010 World Cups, but none was more iconic than his stoppage-time goal against Algeria in his last World Cup, which sent the US through to knockout stages. Simply put, that goal was one of the most seminal moments in US soccer history and helped to galvanize significant support for the program moving forward.
Donovan began his career in 1999 in the Bundesliga but has spent the vast majority of his professional days in the MLS with San Jose and since 2005, Los Angeles. He was on loan with Bayern Munich in 2009 and had two stints with Everton in 2010 and 2012. He's won five MLS Cups, including three with the Galaxy.
While he was obviously frustrated by his omission from this summer's World Cup roster, Donovan left an indelible mark on the trajectory of the US program, the US team and many of its current players.