By Simon Evans
MIAMI, Feb 15 (Reuters) - United States international Robbie Rogers has come out as gay and says he is stepping away from soccer.
The 25-year-old, who recently played in England for Leeds United and Stevenage and has 18 caps for the U.S., wrote on his website - under the title "The Next Chapter" - that he had been afraid to raise the issue.
"Secrets can cause so much internal damage. People love to preach about honesty, how honesty is so plain and simple. Try explaining to your loved ones after 25 years you are gay," he wrote on Friday.
"For the past 25 years I have been afraid, afraid to show whom I really was because of fear. Fear that judgment and rejection would hold me back from my dreams and aspirations. Fear that my loved ones would be farthest from me if they knew my secret. Fear that my secret would get in the way of my dreams.
"Dreams of going to a World Cup, dreams of the Olympics, dreams of making my family proud. What would life be without these dreams? Could I live a life without them?"
Rogers made his name in Major League Soccer with Columbus Crew and was part of the U.S. team at the Beijing Olympics.
"I will never forget the friends I have made a long the way and the friends that supported me once they knew my secret," he said.
"Now is my time to step away. It's time to discover myself away from football."
Rogers' statement was met with warm messages of solidarity from several leading U.S. soccer players who took to social media to publicly contact him.
"100 percent love and support for one of my best friends Robbie Rogers. You will be missed on the pitch. Amazing talent, amazing person," said midfielder Sacha Kljestan, a U.S. team mate who plays in Belgium with Anderlecht. (Reporting By Simon Evans, editing by Mark Meadows)