Former Columbus Crew and United States midfielder Robbie Rogers has come out as gay and announced his retirement effective immediately.
The 25-year-old American, who played for Leeds United and left League One side Stevenage last month, wrote on his blog that he had been afraid of revealing his sexuality - but that he is now leaving football.
Rogers, who won 18 caps for the United States men's national team, wrote: "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.
"Try convincing yourself that your creator has the most wonderful purpose for you even though you were taught differently.''
He added: "Now is my time to step away. It's time to discover myself away from football.''
"Much love and respect for you," tweeted USA forward Herculez Gomez. Women's national team superstar Abby Wambach, Chivas USA's Juan Agudelo and Los Angeles Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez also weighed in. "Couldn't be happier for you!" wrote Wambach.
Eddie Pope, a three-time World Cup defender for the United States men's national team added: "Brave men like you will make it so that one day there's no need for an announcement. That day can't arrive soon enough."
No British-based professional player has come out since ex- Norwich and Nottingham Forest striker Justin Fashanu in 1990. He committed suicide eight years later aged 37. There has been a thawing of attitudes to the prospect of gay players in Britain in recent times, however.
Last month, West Ham winger Matt Jarvis became the third footballer to feature on the cover of the UK's best-selling gay magazine, Attitude, after David Beckham and Freddie Ljungberg. Although not gay himself, Jarvis insisted gay footballers should feel comfortable enough to come out.
Meanwhile, Clarke Carlisle, the chairman of the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA), said last year he had been engaged in discussions with eight gay players but none of them wished to go public.