The United States Women's National Soccer team begins quarterfinal play today in the 2012 London Olympics. First kick is at St. James' Park in Scotland this afternoon at 2:30pm eastern time on NBC Sports Network.
The US went 3-0 in group play and face a New Zealand team who went just 1-2, but clinched their place in the next round with a 3-1 win on Tuesday. For the US, they became the first national women's team to play at Manchester United's famed Old Trafford stadium.
"It was awesome," said US striker Abby Wambach. "So many U.S. fans came for this game specifically to watch at Old Trafford. It's a dream come true for a lot of us and it's amazing to have got a goal."
"In order to grow women's soccer, we need these big moments when the spotlight shines on our game," Wambach continued. "That's how we will attract the attention of not only soccer fans, but people outside of soccer. Today, 30,000 people watched our game. I'm hearing there were 70,000 watching at Wembley. I hope some of the owners of programs around here take notice and start putting money into their women's programs."
In the birthplace of soccer, its the US women that have been turning heads with the size crowds they've been drawing. Defender Kelly O'Hara says the the support that's traveled from home has been a big boost.
"You look up in the crowd and it's all red, white and blue. People were chanting ‘USA.' That's what we want and hopefully it'll be that way going forward," she said.
Not all the support has been from home though. Despite being the country that invented the game, women's soccer has never been embraced the way its been in America. So young British girls interested in soccer are growing up idolizing the American stars.
When Wambach scored the only goal off a brilliant pass from Alex Morgan, a group of young girls wearing red, white and blue, guitar-shaped sunglasses and white shirts they'd decorated with "Go USA!" jumped up and down, high-fiving in celebration.
"We love the American team!" they shouted in unison, in thick British accents.
If they get past New Zealand, the US could find themselves on a crash course with the hosts, Team GB, in the finals. To do so, the US will have to get by Sweden or France while Team GB needs to get by Canada and then likely a rematch with Brazil. GB scored a huge upset over the medal favorite Brazilians in the group stage.