Professional soccer star
Born: January 2, 1985, in East Brunswick, New Jersey
New Jersey Hall of Fame, Class of 2022: Sports
Heather O’Reilly was still in high school when she made her first appearance with the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team in 2002. She went on to become one of the most accomplished and honored soccer players in the history of the sport.
O’Reilly attended Saint Bartholomew’s School in East Brunswick and East Brunswick High School, where she was a perennial member of the National Honor Society and played varsity soccer and basketball. In four years on the East Brunswick soccer team, she scored 143 goals and, as a junior, led the team to the New Jersey state title. As a senior, she was named All-American and National Soccer Coaches Association Player of the Year.
Recruited by the University of North Carolina, O’Reilly studied education and played forward for the Tar Heels from 2003 through 2006, tallying 59 goals and 49 assists and leading the team to the national championships in 2003 and 2006. ESPN the Magazine named O’Reilly the All-American Player of the Year during her senior year. The same year, she won the NCAA’s Today’s Top VIII Award and the Honda Sports Award as the nation’s top soccer player.
While still an undergraduate at UNC, O’Reilly played two seasons for the semi-pro New Jersey Wildcats. After college, she played for a series of clubs, including Sky Blue FC (winning the national championship in 2009); Boston Breakers; FC Kansas City; Arsenal (of England’s elite Women’s Super League); and the North Carolina Courage.
In international competition, O’Reilly won three Olympic gold medals as a member of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team in 2004 (Athens), 2008 (Beijing) and 2012 (London). She was also a member of the world champion FIFA World Cup team in 2015.
O’Reilly retired from competitive soccer in 2019, but remained active in the sport as a broadcast analyst with Fox Sports. Then in July 2022, the mother of two announced she was coming out of retirement to join the Irish club Shelbourne FC to fulfill her dream of competing in the UEFA Women’s Champions League.
“I am somebody that chases their dreams,” O’Reilly said on a BBC podcast. “I had a long, successful, trophy-ridden career and I am very proud of that, but there was this one hole on my resume that I never played Champions League football.”