Roughly 14 years and four World Cup appearances since her U.S. national team debut, Abby Wambach stood on stage outside the Microsoft Theater at L.A. Live and decided to make a change to the popular “I believe that we will win” chant.
With the backing of her teammates and an estimated 10,000 people in attendance, Wambach shouted something a little more fitting: “I believe that we just won!”
The U.S. national team made a stop in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday for its first rally since claiming the 2015 World Cup title, 5-2, against Japan.
Coach Jill Ellis kicked things off, thanking supporters and congratulating her squad. Then Megan Rapinoe took the microphone, getting the crowd involved with some boisterous introductions of her teammates.
“I had my eggs and orange juice this morning, that helped,” Rapinoe joked afterward. “But yeah, the atmosphere was so fun. It was just a huge party.”
The stars of the World Cup, including goalkeeper Hope Solo, who gave up three goals in seven games, Carli Lloyd, who won the Golden Ball Trophy, Alex Morgan, and Wambach, gave short speeches. Lloyd announced her intentions to bring the World Cup trophy back to the U.S. in four years, as “MVP” chants popped up in the background.
Supporters Anita Zubere and Lisa Bartoliattended the rally to show their support and make their voices heard about the pay gap disparity between the men’s and women’s game. Bartoli held up a sign that read “Equal Pay FIFA — It’s Time,” a reference to the fact that the U.S. women’s team was paid $2 million for winning the World Cup, compared to the estimated $35 million the German men’s team was awarded in 2014.
“We know so much about these women and how long they’ve been working, practicing, dedicating themselves to this,” Zubere said. “We just feel that women’s sports just need a whole lot more attention.”
Players on the team admitted after the rally that they weren’t sure what to expect, particularly because the event wasn’t fully publicized until Monday. But organizers said fans were camped out as early as 4:30 am to catch a glimpse of the new champions.
“You do have a sense of it when you’re in Canada and playing, but coming home to this is incredible, to see this many people out here supporting and rallying around what we just did,” Christie Rampone said. “It’s kind of starting to sink in.”
Rampone, 40, is the lone member of the 2015 team who was on the 1999 World Cup squad, the last time the United States took home the title.
“Both teams are exceptional,” Rampone said. “It was perfect timing in ’99, and that team persevered through some ugly games in the beginning as well as we did. They fought through it and won in the end, and this team has had a lot of pressure on them to win another World Cup and compare to ’99.”
Beyond the celebrations, there was also a piece of news: Midfielder Lauren Holiday told reporters that she would be retiring from the national team.
“I know that I gave my all to soccer, to the sport, to this team,” Holiday said. “I’m excited for a new chapter in my life and I feel like this team isn’t my identity, it’s my choice. I think there’s power in making a choice. I chose this team for 10 years, and now I’m going to choose my family.”
The women will continue their whirlwind tour with a trip to New York for a ticker-tape parade on Friday, and in the meantime players will continue to take in the moment.
“It’s surreal, in a way,” Rapinoe said. “It’s not like we’ve been going out and having crazy parties, but just these little moments with teammates, I don’t think it’s totally sunk in yet. Today was absolutely amazing to be able to celebrate like that.”