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DUSSELDORF, Germany (AP) — The U.S. women’s soccer team shared the Yankee Stadium scoreboard with Derek Jeter, made an appearance on “Good Morning America” and can now count Tom Hanks, Lil Wayne and Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers among their list of star-studded admirers.
Like Mia, Brandi and Foudy more than a decade before them, Hope, Abby and the rest of the Americans have become quite the sensation thanks to their performance at the World Cup.
Now the trick is to keep it going.
The Americans play France in the semifinals Wednesday. Win, and they’ll face either Japan or Sweden in Sunday’s final with a chance to become the first team to win three Women’s World Cup titles.
“It’s overwhelming. It’s amazing,” midfielder Carli Lloyd said Monday morning, still savoring the United States’ epic victory over Brazil in a penalty shootout Sunday night. “The support and buzz back home is really awesome, and I think it’s helping women’s soccer. This could be a huge turning point for the growth of soccer back home, and that’s what we’re trying to do and trying to accomplish.
“Hopefully, as an added bonus, we come back with the cup.”
Unlike the American men, for whom making it out of the group stage at the World Cup is a strong showing, the U.S. women have been soccer’s dominant team for about as long as anyone can remember.
They’ve won three of the four Olympic gold medals to go with their two World Cup titles.
The 1999 squad was such a crossover hit that fans were on a first-name basis with Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain and soccer moms and dads alike turned out in droves, packing stadiums for that year’s World Cup.
But U.S. fans can be a fickle bunch. They’ve become so accustomed to success they yawn at anything less than a World Cup title, and the Americans haven’t won soccer’s biggest prize since that ‘99 squad did it. Haven’t produced a team that comes close to duplicating that group’s rock star appeal, either.
Until, perhaps, now.
“We’re participating in something that’s huge,” said Abby Wambach, whose magnificent, leaping header in the 122nd minute Sunday sparked one of the most riveting finishes ever in a World Cup game — men’s or women’s. “Very few times does the spotlight shine so bright on women’s soccer, and we want to prove to everybody around the world that we have a product and that product is worth watching.”