Robbie Rogers won 18 caps for the United States but the 25-year-old has taken the decision to quit the sport after revealing his homosexuality.
Rogers made the announcement via his online blog yesterday and intimated that he had been afraid of coming out while he was still playing. He left npower League One club Stevenage last month.
The Professional Footballers Association maintain that there are other players who are reluctant to announce they are also gay, with Rogers the first to do so since former Hearts, Airdrie, Norwich City and Nottingham Forest striker Justin Fashanu in 1990. He would commit suicide just eight years later, age 37.
Rogers wrote: "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. It's time to discover myself away from football."
Attitudes have thawed towards homosexuality in football. Last month, Matt Jarvis, the West Ham winger, appeared on the cover of the gay magazine, Attitude. Even so, gay footballers are reluctant to come out publicly.
"That's a real challenge. But the game has to be up to that," said Gordon Taylor, chairman of the PFA. "If we're going to claim to be the major sport in the world, then we've got to create a better example."