U.S. Women's Soccer Team Kicks Off World Cup Welcome Home Party in LA - NBC Bay Area
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U.S. Women's Soccer Team Kicks Off World Cup Welcome Home Party in LA

The United States women's soccer team returned home from Canada Monday, arriving at LAX about 24 hours after winning its first World Cup since 1999

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    Fans gathered outside Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles Tuesday morning to celebrate with the United States women's soccer team after the team captured its third World Cup championship.

    The team arrived at Los Angeles International Airport Monday, a day after a convincing 5-2 win over Japan in the World Cup final. The win brought the United States its first World Cup title since 1999 and third overall.

    The Staples Center celebration began at 11 a.m. PT, but fans already gathered early Tuesday morning in front of a jumbo monitor outside the arena. The screen showed highlights of the team's performances in Canada above a banner that read, "Thank you to the best fans in the world."

    Every member of the team attended the Tuesday  rally wearing their championship medals and black "World Champion" T-shirts. At the end, the crowed and team chanted, "I believe that we just won," a variation of U.S. soccer fans' regular "I believe that we will win" chant.

    Midfielder Megan Rapinoe introduced the players to the crowd, which  screamed its approval as each stood and waved.

    "What's up L.A.?" goalkeeper Hope Solo asked, rallying the crowd.  "What's up America? It is so good to be back home.

    "You guys have been the most awesome of fans throughout the entire  World Cup. You stayed behind us. You believed from day one all  the way through game seven."

    The event marked another opportunity for fans to recognize the team's accomplishment in what has been a whirlwind of celebrations since Sunday's win. Working on little sleep, the U.S. team took part in a special event put on by Fox Sports Monday. Players received their first jerseys that included the third star above the crest, the latest title adding the ones earned in 1991 and 1999.

    "This is a remarkable group of women and I couldn't be more proud of  them," the team's head coach, Jill Ellis, told the crowd Tuesday in front of Staples Center. "They epitomize what it means to be a team."

    A return to Los Angeles from Canada, site of the 2015 World cup, marks a homecoming for many U.S. players. The 23-player team includes seven players who played on the high school or college level in Los Angeles or Orange counties -- defender Whitney Engen (Peninsula High School); midfielders Shannon Boxx (South Torrance High School) and Lauren Holiday (UCLA); and forwards Sydney Leroux (UCLA); Alex Morgan (Diamond Bar High School); Christen Press (Chadwick School); and Amy Rodriguez (Santa Margarita High School, USC).

    The championship match was seen by 26.7 million viewers on Fox and NBC's Spanish-language Telemundo, the networks said Monday. The final, called by famed broadcaster Andres Cantor, ranked as the most-watched women's match on Spanish-language teelvision ever with nearly 1.3 million viewers, according to Nielsen.

    And perhaps no player was more squarely in that spotlight than Carli Lloyd, whose hat trick in the first 16 minutes gave the Americans a 4-0 lead over Japan, which defeated the U.S. in the last World Cup. Lloyd went from being one of the top female soccer players in America to one of the country's biggest sports stars in less than two hours. She was tweeted at by President Barack Obama and even had her Wikipedia page changed briefly to say her position was "President of the United States."

    "I think it's definitely gone to another level," Lloyd said. "I'm not sure I'm ready for that, but it's great.

    "I'm pretty mentally zapped right now. I would love to not think about anything."