Thursday was another banner moment for U.S. women's soccer: A fourth gold medal in five Olympics; waves of fans tweeting their delight at Team USA defeating Japan 2-1; an Olympic women's soccer record 80,203 people, many of them waving U.S. flags, watching at London's Wembley Stadium.
"It's a dream come true," Atlanta resident Lauren Becker, 29, told the Baltimore Sun about seeing the match at Wembley. "I feel like I won gold just being here."
Still unknown, though, is how this kind of euphoria from the world stage will translate into long-term support at home, where yet another women's professional soccer league apparently is in the works.
The Boston Breakers, a survivor of the recently disbanded Women's Professional Soccer league, said that it and three other former WPS teams intend to create a league starting in 2013.
āAll these teams are committed to playing with and against each other starting in 2013 and to working out the final details to allow a sustainable professional league for womenās soccer in the U.S.,ā said Michael Stoller, the Breakers' managing partner.
Sustaining women's soccer leagues hasn't been easy. The WPS folded this year after just three seasons following an expensive legal dispute with a former franchise owner.
A predecessor,Ā the WUSA, also went just three seasons. That league launched after the U.S. women won the 1999 World Cup on home soil, dramatically clinching the title in a penalty shootout with China in a match that still holds the U.S. soccer TV viewership record, with more than 18 million viewers.
The U.S. women's head coach wants to see a sustainable stateside league. The lack of one made it hard to prepare for the Olympics, with some team members not having regular club matches to stay sharp, Pia Sundhage told reporters Wednesday, according to Bloomberg.
NBC Sports Network discussed the possibility of a new league during its coverage of the gold medal match Thursday. USA Today later asked one of the network's game analysts, 1999 World Cup winner Brandi Chastain, whether we'd see a stateside women's league that would last.
"God, I hope," Chastain told USA Today. "There's no reason it shouldn't be."
Former U.S. soccer star Mia Hamm told ESPN she didn't think such a sustainable league would happen anytime soon.
"Iām still trying to understand why we canāt keep them alive," Hamm told ESPN. "I wish there was a solution. The players want it. The environment is right. (Iād) love to see something come back. But in the near future, I donāt think itās going to happen.ā
Thursday's victory caught plenty of people's attention, even though the game happened during work hours in the United States and sleeping hours in Japan. At the end of the match, tweets related to the game hit a rate of 33,000 per minute - short of the rates for Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt's victories in the 100 meters and 200 meters, but still one of the highest rates for any event in the Olympics, according to Twitter.
Actor Samuel L. Jackson (who has been tweeting a lot about these Olympics), "Saturday Night Live's" Seth Meyers, actress Gabrielle Union and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice got in on the act.
AWESOME SCOOOOOOOOOORE by USA!!! 8 mins in!!! Go USA!!!—
Samuel L. Jackson (@SamuelLJackson) August 09, 2012
Seth Meyers (@sethmeyers21) August 09, 2012
Gabrielle Union (@itsgabrielleu) August 09, 2012
Susan Rice (@AmbassadorRice) August 09, 2012
The team's Olympic run had plenty for sports fans to love, including a comeback, extra-time semifinal victory against neighboring Canada andĀ a gold-medal match that offered the Americans revenge for their 2011 World Cup penalty shootout loss to Japan.
But whether there will be enough interest to sustain a new women's soccer league between now and the next major women's soccer event, the 2015 World Cup, is yet to be seen.