Millions of eyes were focused Sunday on the United States National Women's Soccer Team winning the Women's World Cup in France against the Netherlands, a team filled with players who spent time in Western New York.
- The American women won their second consecutive World Cup
- Seven of the 23 players on the roster once played professionally for the Western New York Flash prior to the club's sale and move
- Flash coaches and executives that worked with those players still run youth soccer training programs under the WNY Flash Academy banner
Seven of the 23 players on the American roster spent parts of their professional careers with the Western New York Flash before the club's sale and move to North Carolina.
They include stars like Carli Lloyd and Alex Morgan, as well as Abby Dahlkemper, Adrianna Franch, Ashlyn Harris, Sam Mewis and Jessica McDonald. Legendary international star Abby Wambach is a former member of the club.
The team played in Rochester and trained at Sahlen's Sports Park in Elma.
Aaran Lines was a coach and executive of the Flash professional club, and is director of soccer operations for the Flash Academy youth programs.
"It's just great to see them making an incredible pathway and you've been part of their pathway," Lines said of his former players. "It's motivational when you come in through our doors and you know who's worn the Flash shirt and the caliber of player."
Lines is married to former Flash player and team executive Alex Sahlen, who spent time playing several of the standouts who won the World Cup.
"They've all grown leaps and bounds since I've played with them a few years ago. So that's really rewarding because we were a stop in their careers and helped them get to where they are today," Sahlen said.
That's the goal for young players like Chloe DeLyser (Marion), Grace Murphy (Penfield), and Anna Hewlett (Webster). All three high school seniors from the Rochester region are committed to play Division I college soccer.
DeLyser will play at Ohio State, Murphy at Providence, and Hewlett at New Hampshire.
"It's such an inspiration, and especially the girls that played here at the Flash and got there. That's a huge inspiration for us," Hewlett said.
"I just love watching how tough they are. They're never giving up. Their grit," added Murphy.
"The love of the game. Just seeing how much fun they have even after they won. Everyone wants to feel that way," DeLyser said.
The young women are also hopeful all the attention on the national team will bring more fairness in how they're paid compared to men.
Twenty-eight players sued the United States Soccer Federation earlier this year, claiming the men's team earns much more than the women despite the women having much more recent success.
Fans in France chanted equal pay after the U.S. team won the World Cup on Sunday.
"Seeing that these women are so successful and they always put in 100 percent, and they're putting in 100 percent and they're not getting 100 percent back is frustrating and disappointing," Hewlett said.
"I think it's going to definitely get better as the people keep winning. Our team is doing is a lot better and I think people will start to realize that it should be equal," Murphy said.
The victorious United States women's team is providing motivation both on and off the field.
"It's really inspiring to show because their hard work is shown off and makes you want to work harder than everyone else," DeLyser said.