US usher in new era of dominance with World Cup win

VANCOUVER: The United States ushered in a new era of dominance with their Women's World Cup triumph on Sunday, a victory that will do plenty to bring an already passionate American interest in the sport to unprecedented levels.

By crushing Japan 5-2 on Sunday, the United States not only captured a title that has eluded them for 16 years but also avenged their 2011 final defeat against the same opponents.

The U.S., who also won the gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics, are now the only country with three women's World Cup titles to their name, having previously won in 1991 and 1999.

Their support throughout the tournament was clear as they played in front of pro-American crowds the whole way, including Sunday's final in Vancouver where thousands had made the short trip across the border.

While household names like Abby Wambach and Hope Solo stole the American spotlight going into the tournament, it was Carli Lloyd who will be remembered most in the minds of both seasoned and budding U.S. soccer fans.

The 32-year-old midfielder capped a brilliant tournament with a sensational hat-trick inside the opening 16 minutes of the final before collecting the 'Golden Ball' award as the World Cup's best player.

Lloyd's efforts in Canada will likely go a long way in drawing further interest in the sport at home, where success in the women's game is regarded with nearly as much gravity as the men’s side.

The timing of the women's triumph could not have been any better as it came a year after the men's team reached the last 16 at the World Cup in Brazil, which was one of the most watched events in the United States.

With the sport's top two prizes now in their possession, the American women will have targets on their backs heading into the 2016 Rio Olympics and the 2019 Word Cup in France.

USA parties like it's 1999 after World Cup win

DELRAN, NEW JERSEY: There were only 200 people at Ott's Tavern in Carli Lloyd's tiny hometown of Delran but it probably had the most raucous celebration among the scores of Women's World Cup viewing parties held around the country.

It didn't hurt that the United States captain scored three goals in the first 16 minutes -- including a jaw-dropping shot from midfield -- en route to a 5-2 win over Japan in the championship match in Vancouver.

With each goal the tavern erupted, not in the chants of "U-S-A, U-S-A" but with "Car-li, Car-li." The win secured the United States' third World Cup and first since 1999.

After the game, Kathy Hollins, Lloyd's future mother-in-law, said watching her son's fiancee was: "Like a high. You don't even need drugs ... She's so awesome, she just doesn't give up."

Thousands of soccer fans, waving the American flag and wearing red, white and blue normally worn during July 4 cookouts, attended viewing parties in parks, museums and bars throughout the nation.

About 7,000 fans, some with face paint, others with American flags worn like capes, filled Chicago's Lincoln Park to watch the match on a 19-by-33-foot, high-definition screen.

Lloyd's early goal barrage caused the crowd to launch into a steady "U-S-A, U-S-A" chant while they high-fived each other and hugged strangers.

Jim Zastrow, 58, of Evanston, Illinois, attended the party with his 17-year-old daughter Emma.

"The American women played the best they ever played in their history during this tournament," Zastrow said. "I'm happy to be here with my daughter who used to play. This atmosphere is a happy experience."

At the end of the match, fans in Seattle erupted in a deafening "U-S-A" chant at the viewing party hosted by the Seattle Reign, the city’s pro women’s soccer team.

Around 200 people, many wearing American flag bandannas and shirts, packed into The Ninety -- a soccer club and event space in downtown Seattle. "I haven't had this much fun since I was covering grunge in the 90s," said Jeff Lageson, a Seattle-based soccer writer for the website Prost Amerika.

Fans in Portland, Oregon, packed Bazi Bierbrasserie, a popular soccer bar. After the game, patrons in the standing-room-only bar sang the Star Spangled Banner while waving giant American flags.

Outside in the beer garden, fans donned red, white and blue shirts, bandannas and even USA scarves despite the 90-plus degree heat.

"They're so much better than the men," 26-year-old Portland native Ashley Lee, her face painted with 'USA vs Japan', said of the women's team.

No place, however, had more interest than Ott's in Delran, where about 40 of the 200 patrons were friends and family of Lloyd's.

Ted Campbell, 52, a truck driver and former high school athlete from Delran, was at Ott's to soak in a bit of local pride.

"When Delran plays, we play for real," he beamed.