Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen announces retirement after MLS Cup title

Jimmy Nielsen is going out on top.

Two days after coming up huge for Sporting Kansas City in their MLS Cup victory, the veteran goalkeeper has decided to hang up his gloves after a 19-year professional career, announcing his retirement on Monday.

"I want to thank the ownership group, my teammates, my coaches and the entire organization for the opportunity to have four of the best years of my life, not only mine but my family as well here in Kansas City," Nielsen said in a club statement.

"I will remember these years forever. To the best soccer fans: Since Day 1, they have always been behind me and I want to thank them for all the support. I made the final decision to retire today and to end this part of my life and it was the perfect timing, finishing with a great championship that the entire city deserves."

Nielsen, 36, played four seasons in Major League Soccer for Sporting Kansas City and earned MLS All-Star (2010, 2012), MLS Goalkeeper of the Year (2012) and MLS Best XI (2012) recognitions. Nicknamed "The White Puma" and beloved by fans, he has played every minute in the team's last 100 MLS matches (including playoffs) dating back to 2011.

He holds the all-time club regular-season goalkeeping records for games played (128), games started (128), minutes played (11,497), wins (57), ties (32), winning percentage (.575) and shutouts (45).

His 0.99 career goals-against average is best in MLS history among goalkeepers with a minimum of 1,000 regular-season minutes played, highlighted by a 1.03 career goals against average on the road that also ranks first all-time among goalkeepers with 1,000 regular-season minutes played. 

During the team's 2013 MLS Cup championship season, Nielsen led all MLS goalkeepers with 19 victories and 14 shutouts in MLS competition (including playoffs). His 0.88 goals-against average was best among goalkeepers with 1,000 regular-season minutes played and his 546-minute shutout streak was fifth best in MLS history. He was named a finalist for MLS Goalkeeper of the Year for the second consecutive season.

"What an incredible way to end a career," Sporting Club CEO Robb Heineman said in a statement. "Jimmy Nielsen is so important to this organization on and off the field and we look forward to the next phase of our relationship. We thank him for all he has done for the organization, the city and the fans."

Before joining MLS in 2010, the former Danish U-19 and U-21 national team player spent 13 seasons for AaB Aalborg in the Danish Superliga from 1995 to 2007, winning his only other championship there in 1999. While with AaB Aalborg, Nielsen was recognized as Danish Goalkeeper of the Year in 1998 and 2004.

Nielsen also had stints in England at Leicester City and Millwall – where he was a teammate of Kasey Keller – and Vejle in Denmark.

Prior to hoisting the MLS Cup, Nielsen recollected about winning the Danish Superliga championship in only his fourth season, saying, "I don't think I appreciated that [first] championship as much as I apparently should."

And after being an integral part in winning it all with Sporting over the weekend, making several huge saves in the penalty shootout, Nielsen definitely cherished the magnitude of the moment, saying, "This here is a big moment, it’s a proud moment.”

After much speculation about his future, the 36-year-old had made up his mind – to go out on top.