Fresh off its World Cup championship, the U.S. women's soccer team got a hero's welcome on Friday with a ticker-tape parade in lower Manhattan mobbed by young girls and other flag-waving fans, followed by a City Hall ceremony where each player was given a key to the city.
"All of this for us started when we were little and we had a dream," star forward Abby Wambach told a crowd of 3,500 at City Hall Plaza. "In my opinion, all the women up on this stage believed in that dream, kept believing in that dream. "
Head coach Jill Ellis called the celebration "mind-blowing." And midfielder Carli Lloyd, named the World Cup's most valuable player after scoring three goals in the final, told the crowd, "Well I'm a Jersey girl ... but New York City, you guys are awesome."
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Parade-goers — many wearing red, white and blue — started gathering at 3:30 a.m. along the Canyon of Heroes, a stretch of Broadway where the nation's largest city has honored its legends. When the parade got underway at 11 a.m., the crowd was as much as 10 deep along the route. Chants of "USA! USA!" were distinctly high-pitched.
It was the first-ever ticker-tape parade in New York for a women's sports team — a fact not lost on the crowd. A 4th floor window on a building near the route was decorated with a homemade sign that reads "Girl Power" with four American flags.
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"I'm glad to see girls getting a parade," said 9-year-old Christinah Delesine, who wore a blue soccer shirt. "There should be more."
Robert Sanfiz, who brought his three children — Julia, 8, Chris, 7 and Tommy, 2 — had a similar take.
"It's great for her to see women finally be represented," Sanfiz said. "It's great for her self-esteem."
Ireland Giaquinto, 13, held a sign reading, "Thank you for letting me dream."
All 23 players from the team were riding on four of 12 floats. One of the floats was carrying the World Cup trophy, along Lloyd and Mayor de Blasio. Gov. Cuomo was on a separate float.
The players could be seen taking selfies and shooting photos of the crowd. As the parade started, goalkeeper Hope Solo tweeted: "We couldn't be more excited be here!" with a photo of herself and five teammates.