It was a homecoming fit for national heroes.
Fresh off its first World Cup championship in 16 years, the U.S. Women’s National Team was celebrated Friday with a parade in New York City. Lower Manhattan’s Canyon of Heroes was flooded by a sea of red, white, and blue as thousands of fans — many wearing patriotic colors and waving flags — gathered to watch and cheer on Team USA.
The ticker-tape parade was the first of its kind for a women’s sports team.
The festivities centered around a ceremony and fan fest at City Hall. A few thousand people danced along with a DJ and braved the heat in anticipation of seeing their World Cup heroes in person.
Sparkly painted faces and pigtails intermingled with seasoned members of the U.S. Soccer support group the American Outlaws. Classic chants of “USA! USA! USA!” broke out every couple of minutes. Nearly everyone was wearing some sort of red, white, and blue ensemble. But some chose to sport their own team’s jerseys.
A group from the all-girls soccer club Gotham Girls FC stuck out with their bumblebee-yellow kits.
“My favorite part was when Carli Lloyd got the three goals in like the 15 minutes,” said Ruby, 10, reflecting on the World Cup.
“I just want to see the players,” added her friend Chloe, 8.
The long-term effect of the USWNT’s World Cup championship on the growth of female soccer in the U.S. is already being debated. But the immediate impact is clear. Countless girls and young women have been inspired by the triumphant exploits of players like Julie Johnston, Abby Wambach, Megan Rapinoe, and Alex Morgan.
“We love watching them play, they represent the women.” said Olivia, 16. “They represent all of us out there.”
Some got tickets to the ceremony in the hopes of meeting specific players.
“Julie Johnston, she’s my home girl” said Janet, 16, “I think she’s an awesome player She works so well with the team, she always knows where she’s going on the field, controls the ball, gets it where it needs to go. She’s awesome.”
Before running away to join another cheer, Janet considered what would happen if she was actually able to meet Johnston.
“Probably cry,” she said. “Pee my pants maybe a little bit.”
When Team USA finally met the eager crowd at City Hall, Mayor Bill De Blasio presented the players with keys to the city.
Hopefully, no one peed.
Photos: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images (parade), Sports Illustrated Kids (fan)