The former Columbus Crew and USA winger Robbie Rogers has announced that he is gay, and that he has decided to "step away" from his career as a professional footballer.

In a statement published on his personal blog under the title The Next Chapter, the 25-year-old wrote: "Things are never what they seem… My whole life I have felt different, different from my peers, even different from my family. In today's society being different makes you brave. To overcome your fears you must be strong and have faith in your purpose.

"For the past 25 year[s] 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."

Rogers, who has won 18 caps and scored two goals for the USA, has this season been on loan to Stevenage, a team in the third tier of English football, from Leeds United, who play in the second. A product of the University of Maryland, he spent a short time with the Dutch club Heerenveen before enjoying four successful seasons with the Columbus Crew which included the MLS Cup triumph of 2008. He played for the US under-23 team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and made his senior international debut the next year, against Sweden. Rogers was named in the preliminary squad for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, but did not travel to the tournament.

His statement continued: "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.

"I always thought I could hide this secret. Football was my escape, my purpose, my identity. Football hid my secret, gave me more joy than I could have ever imagined… I will always be thankful for my career. I will remember Beijing, [t]he MLS Cup, and most of all my teammates. I will never forget the friends I have made a long the way and the friends that supported me once they knew my secret.

"Now is my time to step away. It's time to discover myself away from football. It's 1 A.M. in London as I write this and I could not be happier with my decision. Life is so full of amazing things. I realized I could only truly enjoy my life once I was honest. Honesty is a bitch but makes life so simple and clear. My secret is gone, I am a free man, I can move on and live my life as my creator intended."

David Testo, a former Columbus Crew, Vancouver Whitecaps and Montreal Impact midfielder, came out as gay in November 2011, shortly after being released by Montreal. He has not since played professionally.