Newcastle-born Telford, who made 27 senior appearances for her country, has called time on a career which has encompassed the rise of women’s football in Britain after a spell in the United States with San Diego Wave.
In a letter released on her social media accounts, Telford said: “I guess the saying goes, ‘When you know, you know…’. After 20 years of playing the beautiful game, it’s time for me to hang up the old boots and gloves.
“I was six when I started kicking a ball around with my friends in the back garden. So, what was this little girl’s dream all those years ago? Probably to be able to keep playing football with her mates for as long as she could.
“After thinking these past few weeks and months, I’m pretty sure I’ve spent the last 20 years doing exactly that.”
She added: “Being a professional footballer was never something I thought I’d say I could be as a little girl. Now with the growth and what the Lionesses achieved last summer, that dream is now a reality for any little girl that wants to dream.”
Telford began her career at Sunderland and played for Leeds, Charlton, Chelsea – with whom she won three Women’s Super League titles, the Spring Series crown, two FA Cups and two League Cups – Perth Glory, Notts County and Liverpool before heading across the Atlantic for the 2022 season.
I can never thank football enough for the people it's brought into my life
Wave coach Casey Stoney, a former Lionesses team-mate, told the club’s official website: “Carly is an extraordinary person, athlete and professional and it’s been an honour not just to be her coach, but a former team-mate as well.”
Telford, who represented her country at the World Cup and European Championships and Great Britain at the Olympic Games, hopes to remain involved in football in some capacity.
She said: “I’ve been blessed to play with and against some of the greatest women to ever grace the field, shared moments that will stay with me forever, won trophies and medals I could never have dreamt of.
“But what will stay with me forever is the people, the team-mates that became friends and the friends that became family. I can never thank football enough for the people it’s brought into my life.”