There’s no question youth soccer was popular well before the Women’s World Cup started. But the U.S. team’s unbeaten success there is inspiring perhaps the most dedicated of fans here. Under the age of 12, that is.
"I want to be just like them and play in the World Cup one day and win just like they have," said Erin Lee.
She’s 10-years-old and a student at the Cal State Northridge summer soccer academy.
Like many of the players there, Erin started playing soccer around the age of 4, so it’s no surprise that her eyes have been glued to the TV since the Woman’s World Cup began.
As a bit of a novice myself, I asked her to give me a rundown of the top players.
It only takes a brief conversation with Erin to know she's no novice when it comes to the Team USA roster.
"I love them all, but my favorite is Alex Morgan, #13. She’s a forward. She scored a lot of goals," Erin said. "I also like Abby Wambach. She scores a lot of header goals. Megan Rapinoe is out for the next game, but I love her too. She’s so skillful.
"I really want to be like all those girls on the national team."
Erin may not be one of them yet, but she did get to see them. Last week, her parents surprised her with a trip to Vancouver to watch the team play.
"Going to the games was so fun. I saw two games," Erin said. "I saw the USA-Nigeria, and I saw the Canada-Switzerland game."
However, there's one particular moment Erin will never forget.
"The goal that Abby Wambach scored in the USA-Nigeria game was so amazing," she said. "Right when they scored, it was so loud and the whole crowd was screaming and standing up."
“Sports is extraordinarily empowering to the level of not only can you do and succeed, but you can often do and succeed as good as men and often better,” said Reseda resident Christopher Gabriele, who enrolled his daughter Natalia at the Cal State Northridge camp this summer too.
He says it’s not often his daughter gets to see women athletes on the world stage, so he celebrates the World Cup.
"Because in the USA, our women’s team is amazing and our women athletes are fantastic, the best in the world," he said. "So our girls have a great example."
Nineteen-year-old Kiley Norkus is a forward on CSUN’s women’s soccer team and a coach at the summer camp. She recalls hanging posters of past U.S. women’s teams on her bedroom walls as a kid.
"They’re such an inspiration to everybody, even as you get older," Norkus said. "They were when I was younger, when I started soccer, and I’m just as enthusiastic about it as the first day I played."
For 10-year-old Erin Lee, the enthusiasm is far from over. She’ll be going back to see the final World Cup game on July 5.