SAN ANTONIO – Smiles lit up the dim theater Sunday as soccer fans cheered on the U.S. women's national team to its record, fourth World Cup victory.
As the women's team has continued to succeed on the world's biggest stage, they've drawn in numerous fans, as demonstrated by the three theaters Santikos Entertainment Cibolo set aside for a World Cup Final viewing party Sunday.
"It just shows how many people, how it's growing, how it's getting way more popular than it was," said a member of San Antonio's United Women's Soccer League team, the Athenians.
The women's national team has blown through the competition on the way to its second world championship in a row, and its performance has ignited passion and pride in other players and women of all ages.
"When I'm on the field, I imagine them so I can be more inspired," said Téa Morey, a young soccer player and fan.
For Daisy Rojas-Romo, a 22-year-old former player, the team is no less inspirational.
"To be, I guess, a female, woman, it's just so inspiring and eye-opening. It's so emotional, actually," Rojas-Romo said, decked in red, white and blue.
For Kelly Lochte, another San Antonio Athenian, the national team's resilience and cohesion is an inspiration.
"If you have a dream and you continue to work through it, you can get there," Locthe said. "If you continue to work for that, if you continue to push yourself, I think there's no limits to your dreams. And I think with each player on the U.S. women's team, you see that."
Fans also said that the team's success will likely increase the sport's popularity in the United States, though Rojas-Romo said things have already been getting better.
"Big cities are getting female teams and making it more important," she said. "The fact they're showing this here in a theater. It's just little things."
When the last whistle had been blown, fans left feeling like the national team had won more than just another World Cup. It had won a victory for the sport of women's soccer and, perhaps, all women's sports.
"It inspires not just, you know, I think our women's basketball players, all across, you know, collegiate players, any professional league," Lochte said. "I think it's just a huge inspiration."