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/ Source: TODAY
By Allison Slater Tate

As the U.S. National Women's Soccer team continues to slay opponents from around the world in the pursuit of a World Cup title, young fans are proudly donning the jerseys of team captain Carli Lloyd or other superstars like Alex Morgan or Megan Rapinoe.

More and more often, those young fans include boys.

"It's not a coincidence that Nike now sells a U.S. women's team shirt in men's and boys' sizes, and I see men and boys wearing them all the time, often with a women's player's name on the back," soccer journalist and Sports Illustrated senior writer Grant Wahl — who is in France covering the Women's World Cup this summer — told TODAY Parents.

"That never used to happen much."

Dayton and Mikey DiTomasso have been women's soccer fans for as long as their mom can remember, in part because they have had strong female coaches, she said. Lindsey DiTomasso

Although the team's players fought in recent months for equal pay and better treatment from the U.S. Soccer Federation citing gender discrimination, when it comes to their fans, they have no trouble finding support.

Lindsey DiTomasso's sons Dayton, 14, and Mikey, 12, have been fans of the women for as long as she can remember, she told TODAY Parents.

The boys began playing the sport themselves at age 3. "They have had strong female coaches, and soccer has always brought our family together," the Chicago-area mom said. The family watched the Women's World Cups together in 2011 and 2015 as well the Olympics in 2012 and 2016.

"Whether it's Wambach, Solo, Morgan, Lloyd, or Rapinoe, they've always had our cheers," she said.

Arianna, Gabriella, and Julian Ording of Ridgefield, Connecticut, are all huge fans of the U.S. women's team, said their mom Tanya. Even the family dog, Oslo, sports an Alex Morgan jersey to cheer the team on when the family watches the games.Tanya Ording

After sitting in the stands for countless numbers of her three sons' soccer games over the years, New York City mom Kimberley Sanderson-Hutfilz told TODAY Parents she is especially gratified that her boys are so interested in watching the women's team and appreciating them as fellow athletes.

"I love that boys can be inspired by these women just as much as girls are," Sanderson-Hutfilz said. Her youngest son, Beckett, 7, has been scrupulously keeping a Women's World Cup bracket throughout the tournament.

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In Duluth, Minnesota, Kim Oppelt's son Thomas, 9, has memorized the Women's World Cup bracket too. "He has the same level of excitement watching the women as he does watching the men," Oppelt said.

Thomas said the reason he loves the women's team is simple: They're good. "They are fun to watch because they're really good at positioning and passing," he explained.

Thomas Oppelt, 9, says his favorite player on the women's team is Carli Lloyd. "She's really fast and aggressive and good," he said. Kim Oppelt

His favorite player is Carli Lloyd. "I don't just like her because she is the captain," Thomas said. "I like her because she is really fast and aggressive and good."

For young soccer players like Thomas, those factors are what matter — not whether their idols are men or women.

"Some day I hope I get to play in the World Cup, so they're really good role models for me," Thomas said. "I hope they keep winning and bring home the Cup."