While quarantined due to the coronavirus pandemic, most athletes used the time to improve their skills. Sounders FC midfielder Harry Shipp critically thought about how to enrich his life.
And the answer wasn’t through professional soccer.
Shipp, 28, announced Tuesday he’s retiring from the sport to pursue an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. He received an undergraduate degree at Notre Dame, where he played soccer from 2010-13 and helped the Fighting Irish win an NCAA title his senior season.
Shipp participated in his last Sounders training Monday. He expects to depart Seattle on Thursday to make long stops visiting family before beginning school in August.
“Never did I imagine my career would be ending like this,” Shipp said via phone Tuesday. His last Sounders match was substituting for midfielder Gustav Svensson in the 69th minute of Seattle’s draw against Columbus Crew SC on March 7 at CenturyLink Field.
Major League Soccer shut down March 12 to help slow the spread of COVID-19. The league is resuming with an “MLS is Back” tournament beginning in July at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.
“I didn’t apply with the 100 percent intention of going,” said Shipp, who’d eventually like to run an MLS club’s front-office. “There’s a lot of uncertainty in the world, and it’s forced us as individuals to re-evaluate things. For me, I
was out of contract after this year, and the uncertainty of what the season is going to look like this year and into next year – all those things added up to just seeming like it’s the right time.
“I’m super, genuinely excited. That’s the hard part. I know I could have played another five years at a decently high level, and that made the decision not the easiest thing in the world. I really wrestled with it, but ultimately I’m at peace.”
The seven-year MLS veteran played a pivotal role in Seattle’s 2019 MLS Cup run. Shipp also represented the team through the Players Association, navigating the new collective-bargaining agreement and return amid the pandemic.
Negotiations for the tournament are why Shipp waited until this week to announce his retirement to the club despite receiving his acceptance letter in April and making his final decision in May. Shipp said he’s closest to Svensson and forward Will Bruin, notifying them first.
Shipp and his wife purchased a lot of gift cards to Seattle-area restaurants, so they plan to return for a more formal good-bye once those places are open to cash in on the quarantined spending.
“It’s weird because it’s sudden for them (teammates),” said Shipp, who won’t be paid the rest of the summer. “Whenever I sign up to do something, I’m going to do it 100 percent. I was happy to represent those guys. …I was choosing between two options that I would’ve been completely happy with, I just chose the one that would make me slightly happier.”
A native of Lake Forest, Illinois, Shipp was signed as a Homegrown Player by the Chicago Fire in 2014. He was a finalist for MLS Rookie of the Year that season and played for the Montreal Impact (2016) before joining the Sounders in 2017.
Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer always complimented Shipp’s dependability and cerebral approach to the game. When the Sounders suffered from numerous injuries and international call-ups last season, Shipp provided steady veteran leadership on and off the field.
Shipp started 15 of his 25 matches for the Sounders last year. He scored five goals and had three assists in his 1,382 total minutes. Shipp had 164 overall appearances in MLS competitions.
“Since he arrived in Seattle, Harry has shown that he is a reliable player and a consummate professional,” Schmetzer said in a statement. “I’m happy for Harry to start a new chapter in his life. I know how hard it was to walk away from our club, and we will miss him both on and off the field.”
Most recently, Shipp has been involved with raising awareness through his social-media accounts about police brutality and other injustices Black people face in America. Shipp stated in a recent Instagram that as “a white person, this is our problem to fix. They (Black people) need our help. Today. Tomorrow. Until we live in a just society.”
“It’s something I’m getting more passionate about as I learn and do all the reflecting I’ve done the past couple of weeks,” Shipp said. “Now that I have the time, I’m looking to explore how I can have a tangible impact, whether it’s in Seattle or Chicago.
“It’s been a hard few weeks for a lot of reasons, (and) that’s why I’m excited for school. You have all of these smart people from diverse backgrounds that come together. I get to learn from everyone’s experiences and figure out where I fit in this world.”