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Women's World Cup Soccer has Strong Tarheel Roots

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RALEIGH — Eight of the women who played in Saturday'sWorld Cupmatch are from Carolina. Women's soccer has strong roots in the Tar Heel state. Young players right here in the Triangle are fueling the frenzy.

These young fans are crazy about women's World Cup soccer. They play for the Raleigh Spartan Vipers, one of the best young soccer teams in the country. Saturday they went together to watch their heroes on the women's US national team.

"Women's soccer has come so far," says soccer player Natalie Turgeon. "I think it is wonderful to have this many fans, this many people come watch them."

They are not the only ones caught up in the momentum surrounding women's soccer. Fans are snapping up everything with the World Cup logo, from pins to t-shirts to bumper stickers. It is part of a marketing blitz aimed directly at girls.

"I think it is awesome they are doing so well," says soccer player Laura Chaplinski. "It is funny because everyone did not know much about women's soccer and now the stadium's filled up. People are wishing they had tickets and they do not."

They may not have tickets, but for $70 they can have a jersey bearing Mia Hamm's number nine. There is even a Soccer Barbie doll modeled after Hamm.

"Now there are women's cleats, there is women's gear," said Darrell Gause ofTSI Soccer. "Before it was just unisex. So now you see a completely different side of men's soccer and it has moved over to the women's side, so it is a good thing all around."

Eight women on theUS teamplayed atCarolina. Watching them play for the World Cup gives these girls something to work for.

"That does make it more fun," said soccer player Laura Hamm. "[We] know our state is strong and that we can work up to that and maybe go to UNC someday and play soccer."

The Capitol Area Soccer League says half its players are girls. That is a big change from a few years ago.