The obvious is not lost on Abby Wambach: She's getting older.
The prolific goal-scorer for the U.S. women's national team will turn 35 just before the World Cup opens in June. Wambach has often said she considers this her last chance to raise the coveted trophy.
A 14-year national team career may be taking its toll on Wambach physically, but she still has the skills and the savvy to be a key contributor. That is something U.S. coach Jill Ellis has been considering as the team makes its final preparations for soccer's premier tournament.
For an exhibition match earlier this month against New Zealand, which drew more than 35,000 fans to Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Ellis used Wambach off the bench.
Wambach says of course she'd like to start because she's a competitor, but she'll embrace whatever role she's given.
"I think that in order to win a World Cup we all have to give up a little bit of our own selves to be able to do that — and I think checking your ego at the door is probably one of the biggest and important keys to winning a world championship," she said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. "We have some stars, but I think it's going to be important that no matter who is on the field that we've created a bond and a chemistry that is unwavering and something we can hold on to throughout the World Cup."
Wambach is soccer's leading all-time international goal scorer with 178. She was the 2012 FIFA Women's World Player of the Year, the game's highest honor. She also has two Olympic gold medals, and memorably scored on a header off a corner kick from Kristine Lilly for a 2-1 victory over Brazil in the 2004 Athens Games.
She has played in three prior World Cups.
Ellis will name her final roster for Canada on Tuesday, and Wambach is not the oldest player among those in the running for a spot on the team. Defender Christie Rampone, a veteran of four World Cups, will turn 40 in late June.
The run-up to the World Cup has been particularly eventful for Wambach.
Last fall she led a group of players in a legal protest over Canada's use of artificial turf fields for this year's World Cup. Prior World Cups — for both the men and the women — had always been played on real grass.
The group of players, which included some of the sport's biggest international names including U.S. teammate Alex Morgan, Germany's Nadine Angerer and Spain's Veronica Boquete, maintained that putting the women's event on an artificial surface amounted to gender discrimination.
The players ultimately dropped the action in January to focus on preparing for the competition.
Wambach said artificial turf is still a concern and she's training to minimize its impact. The women will play as many as seven World Cup matches on the surface — which players say is less forgiving and can exacerbate injuries — without much recovery time.
"I'm at the age where playing on turf sometimes takes sometimes more out of you in games than it helps you. I want to reduce my risks as much as possible and hopefully be able to go to the World Cup fit, ready and healthy," she said.
Wambach also grabbed headlines recently when she decided to sit out the season with her club team, the Western New York Flash, to prepare for the World Cup.
Some suggested that allowing Wambach to forgo the NWSL season with the Flash amounted to preferential treatment by U.S. Soccer, which allocates the national team players to the women's league and pays their salaries.
"Abby made a personal decision to do what she feels is best for her to be mentally and physically prepared for the World Cup," Ellis said in a statement. "The NWSL provides a beneficial environment for our players, but her situation is unique and I understand and respect her thought process. The support and cooperation by the NWSL owners and coaches has helped us ensure we are preparing for the World Cup in the best way possible."
After Wambach's announcement, the Flash traded her rights to the Seattle Reign in exchange for fellow national team player Sydney Leroux.
Wambach said she was surprised by the move, which brings her closer to her home in Portland, Oregon.
"The fact that they would trade for me knowing that I wasn't going to play, that meant a lot. I think I'm going to head to Seattle a few days a week, get some time with the Reign, get some individual sessions with Laura (Harvey), their coach, and stay sharp that way. For me, fitness is always an evolution, but I'm going to be 100 percent ready when the World Cup starts," she said.
Wambach also said she's not ready for retirement just yet and that she hopes to play in the 2016 Rio Olympics, but right now she really isn't looking much past the World Cup. The United States has won the tournament twice, but not since 1999.
The U.S. team opens group play on June 8 with a match against Australia in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Physically, Wambach she said she's close.
"I feel like I'm coming along. I feel like I haven't been my very best playing self over the past year and a half, for different reasons. I think as you grow older you have figure out the best way to utilize not only your body but your skill. Playing on turf makes it a little more difficult because it's more of a grind, so to speak," she said. "But I do know that come June I'll be my fittest and hopefully be playing my very best soccer."