NEW YORK - The U.S. women's soccer team's World Cup celebration parade through Lower Manhattan's famed "Canyon of Heroes" was a terrific spectacle. I'd imagine that no one who witnessed it in person - whether as a fan, journalist or national team member - will ever forget it.
I spent much of the morning and afternoon on a truck for photographers and videographers that rode through the parade route. Below you'll find a look back at some of the anecdotes that I posted on Twitter throughout the event.
First, though, I want to highlight a particular moment during the presentation ceremony on the steps of City Hall. A day earlier, there was a really rancorous and divisive shouting match on Twitter about the involvement of Major League Soccer and its two New York teams as sponsors of the parade. The league and those clubs had each offered some money to help defray the costs to the city of organizing the festivities.
Many of the points made by all sides in that debate were well-intentioned, even though they weren't always presented too politely. In the end, the signs and branding on the floats weren't ostentatious. And more importantly, the most passionate piece of advocacy for the National Women's Socer League came from MLS commissioner Don Garber.
Perhaps this was because NWSL commissioner Jeff Plush didn't speak at the ceremony. None of the members of the media near me, including some who are very well-connected in the women's soccer world, knew why he didn't speak - or even where he was during the event.
In fact, Garber was the only speaker representing the professional soccer world who put a specific spotlight on the NWSL. Here's the particular excerpt of what he said:
This Saturday, Sky Blue will have a game at Rutgers, and those same players that are sitting behind us will be playing in the NWSL - every single one of them. Go out and be a fan, watch those games on television, paint your face, wave a flag, and be a fan of the professional game. We will commit to you that all of our fans will be deeply committed to our communities, and bottle up all of that passion and be great role models.
For those of you who don't know, Sky Blue FC of the NWSL plays all of its home games at Rutgers - Yurcak Field in Piscataway, N.J., specifically. Sky Blue is the closest NWSL team to Philadelphia. The club name dates back to the Women's Professional Soccer era, and you may recall the past iteration playing games against the former Independence.
Philadelphia had the Independence in WPS and the Charge in the old Women's United Soccer Association. But since the NWSL launched in 2013, no new local ownership group has stepped up.
A few hours before Garber's remarks, I was on the SiriusXM edition of Soccer Morning (yes, I was talking live from the photographers' truck). Jason Davis, the show's host, asked me what a sign would be of tangible gains made from the unprecedented spotlight that women's soccer has enjoyed this summer.
I will say here what I said to him: the biggest sign I can come up with is a return of a professional women's team to Philadelphia. And I don't just say that because I'm based here. Both the Charge and the Independence were very well supported by soccer fans and soccer mom families alike. It is not the fans' fault that an investor hasn't come along to get a NWSL team here, but the fans are forced tos uffer the consequences.
And as I have said so many times to all of you and many others, Philadelphia is the nation's fourth-largest television market. That matters to potential sponsors, television networks and any other entities that can bring money to the table.
(So too does the continued lack of any professional women's teams in soccer-mad California, whether in the Los Angeles market or the Bay Area.)
There are many ways to define what the legacy of this summer's Women's World Cup can be. You all know that I wrote during the tournament about the breaking down of barriers between the men's soccer supporter culture and the women's soccer fan base, and that certainly counts - but there's a lot more to do as the women's game moves forward from here.
Launching new soccer teams is never easy, and it's certainly never cheap. But if ever there was a time, it's now.
If that means getting more help from MLS owners and front offices with marketing savvy, I can't imagine that most of the women's soccer community would object in the way that some used to. And if that means some people get off the fence about taking a financial loss for the sake of unearthing the next Carli Lloyd, then they should be applauded for their willingness to do so.
Granted, that second point opens up the possibility of characters akin to notorious former MagicJack SC owner Dan Borislow entering the fray, But I would hope that the NWSL does better than WPS did at researching the stability and character of ownership groups that come along.
You might be wondering if I'm going to put the onus on the Philadelphia Union to step up. I'm not, for two reasons.
First, there's no inherent responsibility on MLS or any of its clubs to support the professional women's game. I think it would be a very good thing if thos entities do so, but it has to be their choice. Second, we all know how little money the Union has right now, and I suspect I wouldn't be alone in arguing that the club ought to get its current house in order before building another one.
I don't ultimately have an answer to the question of how to get professional women's soccer back to Philadelphia. But as I looked up at that cloudless sky above Broadway and watched the confetti fall down on me, I couldn't help asking it. And I can't help thinking now that some of you out there might be asking it too.