Tens of thousands of fans of the U.S. Women's National Team crammed sidewalks in downtown Manhattan to cheer the World Cup soccer champions in a ticker-tape parade Wednesday.
The team has captured the world's attention with its fourth World Cup win, which it clinched Sunday when it beat the Netherlands 2-0 at the tournament in France. It was the second consecutive FIFA championship for the women's team after its win in 2015, when it was also honored with a New York City parade.
The team also won the World Cup in 1991 and 1999.
The parade kicked off at 9:30 a.m. in Battery Park in lower Manhattan with women on motorcycles with American flags and placards stating "Imagine Equality" followed by a marching band.
As the parade traveled down a stretch of Broadway known as the Canyon of Heroes, confetti rained down on the team and thousands of fans shouted "USA" and waved American fla
gs. Several of the players led the crowds in chants of "equal pay."
Beyond their historic wins on the soccer field, the U.S. women's team has also grabbed the spotlight for its fight for gender equality.
Earlier this year, the team filed a federal lawsuit accusing the U.S. Soccer Federation of "institutionalized gender discrimination." The suit claims that American female players were paid a total of $1.725 million in bonuses after winning the 2015 World Cup while American male players were paid a total of $5.375 million in bonuses in 2014.
During Wednesday's parade, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Twitter that he had signed new pay equity legislation.
"The women's soccer team plays the same game that the men’s soccer players play — only better. If anything, the men should get paid less," he tweeted.
The team, along with coaches and staff, rode on two different floats, with the coveted trophy on the float with the mayor and team co-captains Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe, who was named the top scorer and best player of the 2019 Women's World Cup.
In a tweet Wednesday morning before the day's festivities began, Morgan said the parade will be "epic."
"Time to celebrate with everyone who cheered us on all month!!!," she wrote.
Fans not at the parade were also celebrating, including former President Barack Obama.
The parade ended at City Hall, where the all-women Brazilian Samba Reggae drum line Fogo Azul performed, followed by a speech by Mayor Bill de Blasio who called the team's win a "historic moment."
“They have inspired particularly young women to believe in themselves, to be brave, to be bold, to be fierce. What this team has done will live in our history," he said. "This is America’s team and we could not be more proud of our team.”
Rapinoe praised her teammates for being "resilient" and "tough."
“I couldn’t be more proud to be a co-captain. It’s my absolute honor to lead this team out on the field,” she said.
The 34-year-old athlete ended her speech with a positive message: "We have to be better. We have to love more, hate less. We've got to listen more and talk less. We've got to know that this is everybody's responsibility."
The mayor also presented the players and coaching staff with keys to the city.