Former Leeds midfielder Robbie Rogers, who won 18 caps for the United States national team, has announced he is gay on a blog post which also claimed he was leaving football.
Rogers, 25, previously played for Leeds United and Columbus Crew, but left League One side Stevenage after a loan spell last month, and wrote on his blog that he had been afraid of revealing his sexuality.
"Secrets can cause so much internal damage," he 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. Now is my time to step away. It's time to discover myself away from football.''
No British-based professional player has come out since ex-Norwich and Nottingham Forest striker Justin Fashanu in 1990. He committed suicide eight years later aged 37.
There has been a thawing of attitudes to the prospect of gay players in Britain in recent times, however. Last month, West Ham winger Matt Jarvis became the third footballer to feature on the cover of the UK's best-selling gay magazine, Attitude, after David Beckham and Freddie Ljungberg. Although not gay himself, Jarvis insisted gay footballers should feel comfortable enough to come out.
Meanwhile, Clarke Carlisle, the chairman of the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA), said last year he had been engaged in discussions with eight gay players but none of them wished to go public.
And Gordon Taylor, chairman of the Professional Footballers' Association, told Press Association Sport: "I'm pleased that he's come out for his own sake. We do have players who've said that, while they are gay, they don't feel comfortable enough to come out.
"It's not dissimilar to many black players, and we need to create a safe environment for them on and off the field. If there is abuse, that needs to be dealt with by all the football family.
"It's no bad thing that he's been brave enough to come out. We know of players who are playing who are gay who've not had that confidence as yet. But, as the rest of the world becomes more civilised, hopefully that will come.''
Taylor added that the PFA remains committed to programmes of education on all topics relating to discrimination, but that the issue is one that needs to be tackled by society as a whole.
"There needs to be a feeling that there is a comfortable environment for everybody,'' he said. "We're aware through our sporting chance clinic that players who deal with such issues at the moment feel they would be targeted and the attention would no longer be on them as a footballer.
"That's a real challenge. But the game has to be up to that. If we're going to claim to be the major sport in the world, both in terms of spectators and participation, then we've got to use that to create a better example.''
Information from the Press Association was used in this report