TOPSHOT - USA's players celebrate with the trophy after the France 2019 Womens World Cup football final match between USA and the Netherlands, on July 7, 2019, at the Lyon Stadium in Lyon, central-eastern France. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)        (Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images)
Franck Fife/AFP/Getty Images
TOPSHOT - USA's players celebrate with the trophy after the France 2019 Womens World Cup football final match between USA and the Netherlands, on July 7, 2019, at the Lyon Stadium in Lyon, central-eastern France. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP) (Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images)
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(CNN) —  

Megan Rapinoe and her team did what Donald Trump told them to do — they finished the job. Now the question is, how will the President honor World Cup winners who have carved out a remarkable political and societal legacy?

USA’s win over the Netherlands in the World Cup final in France on Sunday did not just spark celebrations among their fans. It validated the team’s status as icons whose willingness to go beyond soccer soundbites inspired youngsters, created critics who chafed at their politics and challenged perceptions of how athletes should behave.

A public feud between Rapinoe and Trump during the tournament pulled her team into the political storm that constantly rages around the President.

But the star forward’s success in leading her team to glory made a statement that resonated far beyond partisan politics. The USA team is driving the evolution in women’s soccer – which lacks the support and attention in the game’s traditional heartlands in Europe and South America that it has in the US but is beginning to catch on.

And in the United States, the national team is fighting a lawsuit to be paid the same as their male counterparts, becoming an emblem of the wider movement to end the gender wage gap.

The team’s triumph also comes as other female athletes, like 15-year-old Coco Gauff at Wimbledon and the five-time world champion USA women’s hockey team break their own sporting barriers and confirm the promise of Title IX non-discrimination for female athletes.

Megan Rapinoe of the US celebrates with teammates Alex Morgan and Samantha Mewis after scoring her team's first goal during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France Final  yesterday at Stade de Lyon on July 7 in Lyon, France.
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Megan Rapinoe of the US celebrates with teammates Alex Morgan and Samantha Mewis after scoring her team's first goal during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France Final yesterday at Stade de Lyon on July 7 in Lyon, France.

Its outspoken members also connect with an era of shifting societal attitudes that led to the #MeToo movement which exposed generations of sexual harassment in business, the media, the arts and Hollywood – as Democratic women candidates are lining up for the chance to take on Trump in 2020.

RELATED: President Trump, Barack Obama congratulate US women’s team on World Cup win

On the face of it, the USA World Cup winners ought to be the kind of cause the President can quickly embrace, since they are the epitome of one interpretation of his motto, “America First.”

But while other key political figures from all sides of the ideological spectrum quickly tweeted rapturous praise, it took Trump several hours to offer his congratulations.

01:59 - Source: CNN
Trump weighs in on equal pay for female athletes

“Congratulations to the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team on winning the World Cup! Great and exciting play. America is proud of you all!” Trump tweeted from his golf club in New Jersey.

The President made no mention of an invitation to the White House for the team — the root of his original showdown with Rapinoe — or of the possibility of other honors for the back-to-back World Cup winners. The US delegation to the final in France also lacked a bit of firepower, given that it was led by a comparatively junior official, Karen Dunn Kelley, the deputy Secretary of Commerce.

Trump told reporters Sunday that he would look at a visit by the team but hadn’t really thought about it, but he again congratulated the US players.

After Tiger Woods won the Masters in April – his 15th major championship – the golf-loving Trump quickly awarded Woods the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He recently announced that Jerry West, a former NBA player, coach and general manager would get the same honor.

Trump in a corner

The World Cup winners have long refused to let their results do all the talking.

“You can’t win a championship without gays on your team. It’s never been done before, ever,” Rapinoe said, according to several media outlets including the Guardian in the UK last week.

00:54 - Source: CNN
Rapinoe: We are a proud, strong and defiant group of women

Rapinoe’s confidence to voice her political views put her at odds with Trump after Rapinoe said she wouldn’t attend a White House celebration if the team won the World Cup.

It led to the extraordinary spectacle of a sitting President publicly remonstrating with the captain of the team wearing US colors at a tournament overseas – an episode that helps to encapsulate the exposed political nerves of the Trump era and turned into a dividing line between conservatives and opponents on cable TV.

Trump responded to Rapinoe on June 26 in the traditional manner he reserves for his critics.

Megan should WIN first before she TALKS! Finish the job!” Trump tweeted before inviting the team, win or lose, to the White House.

“Megan should never disrespect our Country, the White House, or our Flag, especially since so much has been done for her & the team,” Trump said.

The spat might seem a personal matter, but the World Cup winners captured America’s heart in a way that suggests his political antennae might have failed him.

“He has basically painted himself in a corner of being against Megan Rapinoe,” USA TODAY columnist Christine Brennan said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“I think we will see more of this because these women are empowered as never before and they are speaking out against a President that they don’t respect.”

Rose Lavelle of the US team celebrates after scoring her team's second goal during the  match between the US  and the Netherlands.
Robert Cianflone/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
Rose Lavelle of the US team celebrates after scoring her team's second goal during the match between the US and the Netherlands.

Rapinoe made no excuses for the willingness of her team to engage in issues beyond wins and losses at a news conference following the World Cup final.

“We say what we feel. All of us really, I know that my voice sometimes is louder, but in meal rooms, in conversations, everybody is in this together,” Rapinoe said, with her medal around her neck. “We are such a proud and strong and defiant group of women.”

Melania Trump and Barack Obama weigh in on win

Leading political figures, including first lady Melania Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, 2020 Democratic hopeful Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former President Barack Obama all beat Trump to Twitter to congratulate the team.

“Congratulations to 2019 Women’s World Cup Champions @TeamUSA!” wrote the First Lady.

Obama quickly tweeted: “Congrats to the record breakers on the @USWNT, an incredible team that’s always pushing themselves—and the rest of us—to be even better. Love this team,” Obama tweeted.

Trump’s tweeted lecture on the nature of patriotism was similar to his comments about NFL players who took a knee during the national anthem to protest police-involved killings of black males, a societal issue that the President leveraged into a base play and turned into a huge political controversy.

The US team's defender, Becky Sauerbrunn, celebrates after the final whistle during the France 2019 Women's World Cup football final match between the US and the Netherlands yesterday.
Franck Fife/AFP/Getty Images
The US team's defender, Becky Sauerbrunn, celebrates after the final whistle during the France 2019 Women's World Cup football final match between the US and the Netherlands yesterday.

It prompted Sue Bird, the WNBA star who is also Rapinoe’s partner, to defend her in an article in the “Player’s Tribune” that criticized “the Rude Man on Twitter.”

“You just cannot shake that girl. She’s going to do her thing, at her own damn speed, to her own damn rhythm, and she’s going to apologize to exactly NO ONE for it,” Bird wrote.

A White House welcome for championship winning teams has usually been one of the least controversial, unifying moments of a presidential term. However, during previous administrations some athletes refused invitations on political grounds.

But it has become a rising issue since Trump became President, as a growing list of invitees, especially minorities, decline to show up because they disagree with Trump politically.

In January, the then-NBA champion Golden State Warriors