The success of the U.S. Women's team is especially thrilling for young soccer playing girls who haven't had some stars to look up to for a while. NPR's Carrie Kahn has more.

CARRIE KAHN: If you ask a group of 11-year old girls who's their favorite female soccer player you get one answer.

GIA POLIZZI: Mine is Mia Hamm.

SYDNEY COLLYNS: Mia Hamm also.

KAHN: Granted Mia Hamm is one of the game's greatest players, but the U.S. women's star forward retired back when these girls were toddlers.

POLIZZI: I'm Gia and I'm 11.

COLLYNS: I'm Sydney and I'm 11.

JOJO LEVEY: I'm JoJo and I'm 11.

KAHN: That's Gia Polizzi, Sydney Collyns and JoJo Levey. JoJo clarifies that she's actually almost 12. That makes her the only one of the three alive the year Hamm and the U.S. team won the World Cup. None of these girls has ever seen Hamm play. They only know of her from YouTube, which incidentally, didn't exist when Hamm was playing. So, Gia, Sydney and JoJo are ready for some new idols. The U.S. women's team has plenty; the girls just have to learn some new names.


LEVEY: I forgot her name. She's a goalie.

COLLYNS: Hope Solo.

LEVEY: Yes. She's my favorite. Hope Solo and then something, something Wam-bach.

UNIDENTIFIED COACH: Okay. Good morning everybody.


KAHN: The girls and boys too, are at this soccer camp at a local park on LA's Westside. Eleven-year-old Clare Cooper and 10-year-old Sabrina Malinda love soccer and their new found girl bragging rights.

CLARE COOPER: Hope Solo is like an amazing goalie. She makes the most amazing saves that I don't think very men could do.


COOPER: So that's...

MALINDA: Yeah. My brother tries to mock her. When I'm kicking at him he's trying to make Hope Solo saves and I'm like you are never going to be as good as her.

KAHN: Having an idol is key for an athlete to succeed in a sport says Mike Woitalla. He's executive editor of Soccer America magazine and the coach of his daughter's youth soccer team.

MIKE WOITALLA: The girls in this country who play soccer are overdue for someone to watch and to emulate and to idolize, but in the good sense of the word, and this could happen at this World Cup.

KAHN: Excitement is running high for the women's team. ESPN had one of its highest TV ratings for last Wednesday's semifinal against France. Venues all over the country are readying for record crowds tomorrow, from the Civic Center in San Francisco, to Abby Wambach's brother's bar in upstate New York. And youth soccer leagues are gearing up for a spike in registration, like what they saw after the Women's World Cup win back in 1999.

COACH: All right girls, same drill, dribbling around, listen to my command. Off we go.

KAHN: At the West L.A. soccer camp, it's not just the girls who are excited.

LIAM CARPENTER: I've watched everyone of their games. I'm pretty intense about it 'cuz I don't usually see the U.S. Men's team do very well.

KAHN: Nine-year-old Liam Carpenter-Shulman says there's no doubt who will win tomorrow. Who do you call it for?


KAHN: How come?

CARPENTER: Hope Solo and Abby Wambach.

KAHN: The other day, U.S. goalie Hope Solo said as much but was far more modest. She gave credit for the team's success to her coach, who she says lets everyone just enjoy the game, like when they were kids.

COACH: Turn. I want to see a fancy turn. Lovely. Accelerate.

KAHN: The young soccer fans in West L.A. hope the U.S. Women's team does just that - and wins big tomorrow against Japan. Carrie Kahn, NPR News.

COACH: Let's have everyone chant USA.




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