The influential Bardsley, who turns 38 in October, will call time on an impressive career spanning two decades at the end of the current Women’s Super League (WSL) campaign.
“It was obviously a pretty tough decision for me to make but, after a lot of deliberation and unfortunately being away from the pitch for quite a while now due to injury, it just felt like it was the right moment,” she said on Monday.
“As sad and strange as it is to be stepping away from something I’ve committed my entire young adult life to, ultimately it’s something I feel really proud of and I can honestly say, hand on heart, that I’ve left no stone unturned and I have no regrets about how I’ve applied myself and what I’ve achieved.
“I feel incredibly proud of my career but ultimately I’m really excited about the next steps and what is to come in the future, and I’m just very much looking forward to giving back to the football community in many other ways.”
The American-born Bardsley has 81 senior England caps to her name, featuring in three World Cups and two European Championships.
She also played at London 2012 for Great Britain and was part of Hege Riise’s initial squad for last summer’s delayed Tokyo Olympics, though was forced to withdraw through injury.
Bardsley, who played college soccer for the Cal State Fullerton Titans, began her club career in the United States, playing for Ajax America Women, Pali Blues and Sky Blue FC before moving to Europe with Swedish outfit Linköpings.
She first arrived in English football with Lincoln in 2013, joining Manchester City a year later ahead of their debut season in the WSL. Bardsley won the WSL title with City in 2016, plus four League Cups and three FA Cups.
With the Lionesses, the 37-year-old was a member of the squad that finished third at the 2015 World Cup in Canada, also lifting the Cyprus Cup twice and the SheBelieves Cup in the USA in 2019.
Manchester United’s Mary Earps has now established herself as England’s first-choice goalkeeper under Sarina Wiegman ahead of this summer’s delayed home Euros, with competition from Bardsley’s City team-mate Ellie Roebuck and Aston Villa’s Hannah Hampton.
City plan to honour Bardsley ahead of Wednesday’s clash with Birmingham, with a trip to Reading then in store before the FA Cup Final clash with Chelsea at Wembley on May 15.
They currently sit fourth in the WSL, one point adrift of United in third and with a game in hand on their rivals.
“Karen has left an undeniable mark on women’s football, and I believe that her playing career is just the start of the overall impact she will make,” said City head coach Gareth Taylor.
“Although injury has limited her appearances on the pitch during my time in charge, she has remained an integral member of our team and has made a real difference behind the scenes.
“She deserves all the plaudits that she receives, and I would like to wish her the very best for the future and the next step of her journey.”