NEW YORK — Adoring fans packed New York City's Canyon of Heroes on Wednesday amid a blizzard of confetti to praise the World Cup-winning U.S. women's national soccer team as leaders on the field and advocates for pay equity off it.
Crowds chanted "USA! USA!" and workers sounded air horns from a construction site as the hourlong parade moved up a stretch of lower Broadway that has long hosted so-called ticker tape parades for world leaders, veterans and hometown sports stars.
Co-captain Megan Rapinoe and her teammates shared a float with Mayor Bill de Blasio and Carlos Cordeiro, president of the U.S. Soccer Federation. Rapinoe struck her famous victory pose, took a swig of Champagne and handed the bottle to a fan. Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher held the Women's World Cup trophy aloft.
Aly Hoover, 12, of Glen Ridge, New Jersey, stood at the sidelines with a poster of the face of co-captain Alex Morgan, who matched Rapinoe with six goals at the monthlong, 24-team tournament in France.
"I just want to be like them," she said.
Garret Prather brought his newborn son "to celebrate how the American women made us proud on and off the field."
The Americans repeated as champions at the quadrennial tournament by beating the Netherlands 2-0 on Sunday in Lyon. The team will receive $4 million for winning the World Cup from FIFA, the international soccer governing body. The French men's team received $38 million for winning last year's World Cup in Russia.
The American women's team has sued its national soccer federation for gender and pay discrimination. The federation will give the women bonuses about five times smaller than what the U.S. men would have earned for winning a World Cup. The case is currently in mediation.
Kate Lane, a Limerick, Ireland, resident who watched the parade, called the pay gap "massive" for the soccer players and "across the board" for most women.
"Especially in male-dominated professions," Lane said. "Women put just as much commitment into their work as their male counterparts."
She's hopeful the younger generation is soaking up the message from the women's team, noting a girl wearing an "Equal Pay" T-shirt at the parade.
Earlier Wednesday, team members joined New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, as he signed a bill that expands gender pay equality in the state. He said women's soccer players should be paid the same as male players.
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, introduced a bill Tuesday that would bar federal funding for the men's 2026 World Cup until the U.S. Soccer Federation provides equal pay to the women's and men's teams.
At a City Hall rally after the parade, de Blasio, a Democrat and U.S. presidential candidate, honored the team with symbolic keys to the city, saying it "brought us together" and "showed us so much to make us hopeful."
After chants for "Equal pay!" from the crowd, Cordeiro said women "deserve fair and equitable pay. And together I believe we can get this done."
At the rally, Rapinoe noted the diversity of the team: "We have pink hair and purple hair, we have tattoos and dreadlocks, we got white girls and black girls and everything in between. Straight girls and gay girls."
The parade is named for the strands of ticker tape that used to be showered down from nearby office buildings. The tape has since been replaced with paper confetti, which drifted down from office buildings throughout Wednesday's parade, along with documents and spreadsheets folded into paper airplanes. The Department of Sanitation said it assigned 350 workers to parade cleanup, with trucks, backpack blowers and brooms at their disposal.
The team had already started celebrating its record-extending fourth Women's World Cup title long before Wednesday. After touching down at Newark Liberty International Airport on Monday, players shared a toast and sang Queen's "We Are the Champions."
Team members appeared on ABC's "Good Morning America" in Times Square on Tuesday to show off their trophy and answer questions from cheering kids.
Rapinoe, the outspoken star who won the awards for the tournament's best player and top scorer, also appeared on CNN and MSNBC later Tuesday. She told CNN's Anderson Cooper that President Donald Trump's slogan "Make America Great Again" is "harking back to an era that wasn't great for everyone. It might've been great for a few people."
Rapinoe told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow that Trump had yet to invite the women's soccer team to the White House.
During the tournament, Trump posted on Twitter that he would invite the team, win or lose. Rapinoe previously said she wouldn't be going to the White House. The team has accepted an invitation to visit Congress.