The two soccer stars have "recently unlayered a new friendship through personal things that we've both been through," Krieger tells PEOPLE
As both soccer stars prepare to close the chapter on their competitive careers with Saturday's National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) championship game, Krieger, 39, and Rapinoe, 38, know that only one of them can hang up their hat with a win.
"I'm just excited to share the field with her one last time, not only as a former teammate on the national team, but also as a friend," Krieger tells PEOPLE ahead of the highly-anticipated matchup between OL Reign and Gotham FC at Snapdragon Stadium in San Diego.
"It's going to be really difficult because one of us has to lose and most likely it won't be me," Krieger laughs.
The Gotham FC player continues, "No matter what happens though, I'm still very proud of her and I'm proud of us and what we've given the game and what we've given each other — that's kind of what this game represents."
Krieger says she and Rapinoe "are going to give it everything" in their quest for the title, "and that's the way we can respect each other the most." She notes, "At the end of the day, our friendship will never deter from this game and what we're going to give this."
Whatever the outcome on Saturday, "I know that she'll always have my back, and I'll always have hers no matter what," Krieger says. "And that's what I can walk away from this knowing. We're going to forever cherish and nurture that."
Rapinoe and Krieger have shared countless moments on the field over the years, but Krieger tells PEOPLE the two have "recently unlayered a new friendship through personal things that we've both been through."
The athletes have grown closer through "deep, deep conversations," says Krieger, "just talking about family and growing up and childhood and just certain things that we've gone through."
The soccer stars can also relate to one another as they navigate life in the public eye. "And then obviously talking about life and football and work and life outside of football and work because you have to go to events and you're public figures and you're doing all these things," Krieger says, adding that "sometimes it's nice just to sit on a couch or sit at a restaurant and not care, and you just don't judge."
Kreiger says she "really values" that she can "share certain things that I might not share every day," with Rapinoe, "And I know she values that with me as well."
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Gotham FC's championship hopes come amid the star's divorce from former NWSL player Ashlyn Harris after four years of marriage.
Harris, 37, filed for divorce from Krieger on Sept. 19 in Florida, PEOPLE confirmed via the Seminole County Clerk's website. They share two kids: daughter Sloane, 2½, and son Ocean, 14 months.
Rapinoe's wife, former WNBA star Sue Bird, has also become a close friend of Krieger's over the years.
Bird, 43, joined Gotham FC's ownership group in 2022 but will be forced to watch her NWSL team compete against her wife Rapinoe's on Saturday.
In a post to her Instagram Stories, Bird poked fun at the conundrum with a nod to Donna Kelce, who is known for her split NFL jerseys supporting sons Jason and Travis Kelce and their respective teams. "Anyone got the plug on a Donna Kelce type jersey?" Bird wrote, tagging both Jason and Travis as well as Krieger and Rapinoe.
Krieger tells PEOPLE she thought Bird's request was "hilarious." But "Pinoe hated it," she jokes, referencing the preferred nickname teammates use for Rapinoe.
Once Rapinoe's OL Reign and Gotham FC both advanced to the Final, Krieger says she "immediately texted Pinoe and said, 'Who do you think Sue's going to cheer for?' "
Krieger says Bird is "a huge part of" Gotham FC's success, and it's "really great" to have support from her as a friend and team owner. "Obviously, it's difficult when your partner is playing in the game as well," she explains. "You have to support her 100% first and foremost. So, we know we can come second, but if we win, I think she'll be really excited too."
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