Freed from what Alex Morgan called this "little bubble" in which she and her teammates lived during June and early July, the U.S. women's national soccer team is celebrating its second consecutive World Cup championship with everything from a ticker-tape parade through Manhattan's concrete canyons to a big bucket of cookies Sunday at the Minnesota State Fair.
Its five-city Victory Tour comes to St. Paul's Allianz Field on Tuesday with six players — including stars Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Rose Lavelle — out injured or excused.
Those aforementioned three won't play in the friendly against Portugal, but they came to town early with their teammates to spread the joy of a victory now two months old. Some, such as coach Jill Ellis, went to the State Fair for the food. Others such as Rapinoe attended a Lynx game at Target Center on Sunday or their practice Saturday. Team members also visited a children's hospital.
"To see the way this city supports a women's franchise like that is amazing," said Rapinoe, winner of this World Cup's Golden Boot and Ball for top goal-scorer and best player, respectively. "It was such a cool atmosphere. That arena, it looks amazing, it feels amazing."
The Victory Tour started a month ago at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., and continued Thursday before nearly 50,000 at Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field. After Tuesday's game, it will conclude in October in Charlotte, N.C., and Chicago.
The team, including its three injured, participated in a free holiday afternoon practice on Monday that filled six of Allianz Field's lower sections with families and friends seeking to join the lingering party.
"We've seen on this tour the impact we've had across the country," Morgan said. "It has been really cool to see."
The team's players and coaches, while in France, saw on social media city squares jammed with Americans watching their games on big outdoor screens. Or they heard about those who stopped what they were doing to watch crucial games played by a team known as much for its push for equal pay, social justice and President Donald Trump's Twitter feud with its biggest star, Rapinoe.
"You can't really get the visceral feeling until you're home," Rapinoe said. "Almost immediately landing in New York, we just felt it. The parade, just walking around, the types of shows we were on and media we were doing, just how big it was. You really got the sense that this went so far beyond soccer."
Minnesota United season-ticket holders and its wait-list member essentially sold out Allianz Field before tickets went on sale to the general public. A limited number of tickets at face value later went on sale, from $100 to more than $1,000 for "platinum" tickets. In recent days, some tickets on the secondary markets dropped below $100.
Fans who bought tickets at such prices won't see some of the team's biggest stars play.
"I know, I feel really bad about that," said Rapinoe, who hasn't played on the Victory Tour yet because of an Achilles' injury. "I wish I could be out there playing. There's a few of us not fit to play yet. It'll be a great atmosphere and a wonderful stadium to play in. Hopefully, we can make it back and be able to play. That's just the nature of sport."
Monday's free practice brought out young girls in the multitudes. Some had their faces painted red, white and blue. Others sported signs. One carried a book entitled "Chase Your Dreams."
Rapinoe was asked what her message is for such girls.
"I think we just say dream the biggest you can," she said. "We've raised the ceiling on what it even means to dream for them and what's possible for them, what they can hope and dream for and hopefully dream past in their lifetime. I say don't reach the level we're at, but go far beyond that."