New York gives US World Cup soccer champions historic parade

Megan Rapinoe (centre) of the US women's national team holds the World Cup aloft as fans cheer.
Megan Rapinoe (centre) of the US women's national team holds the World Cup aloft as fans cheer.REUTERS

NEW YORK (AFP) - Showered with confetti and cheered by thousands, the US women's World Cup-winning footballers made history on Friday by being the first female sporting team to be honoured with a New York ticker-tape parade.

The triumphant team members stood atop floats, waving to jubilant supporters, many of them young girls saluting last Sunday's stunning success over Japan in the final in Vancouver.

Vast clouds of confetti billowed down the stretch of Broadway known as the "Canyon of Heroes" - jokingly renamed "Canyon of Heroines" for the day.

Wearing their medals, players blew kisses and waved to the crowd who responded with chants of "U-S-A, U-S-A!" to fete their heroes' record third World Cup title and first in 16 years.

The parade ended with dance and music outside City Hall, including a performance from hit musical Fun Home - a lesbian coming of age tale - that last month won the Tony Award for best musical.

There have been 206 ticker-tape parades in New York since 1886 but the soccer team are the first female athletes in more than 50 years and the first women's sporting team ever to be honoured.

Mayor Bill de Blasio heaped praise on the squad, hailing "the first women's sports team in history to be honoured with a parade down the Canyon of Heroes. And let me tell you, it's about time."

He presented each member of the team with a ceremonial key to the city of New York from a stage bedecked in US flags.

DREAM COME TRUE

Five days after taking the crown, New York gave them a party to remember after initial celebrations in Los Angeles, where the team returned home after winning the title.

Carli Lloyd, voted the Golden Ball as player of the tournament, thanked the crowd.

"The World Cup was a dream come true but having this parade here in New York City was one of the best moments of my life and we all feel the same," she said.

Lloyd scored three times as the United States roared to a four-goal lead in the first 16 minutes en route to a 5-2 demolition of the Japanese in the final.

Abby Wambach, a 35-year-old forward and the all-time top scorer in men's or women's international football, said the experience would "go down as the best thing I have ever been a part of in my life".

"To be a part of the ticker-tape parade, what an honour. Mayor I can't even thank you enough for giving us this experience," she said.

"All of this for us started when we were little and we had a dream," she said.

"Thank you guys so much we love New York City!"

But it wasn't all jubilation. Protesters said they would fly a plane overhead and take out ads to criticise Fifa for pay discrimination, demanding equal pay for women and men in the sport.

Anti-sexism group UltraViolet said it was not fair that women get US$2 million (S$2.7 million) for a World Cup win, compared to US$35 million for the winners of the men's tournament in Brazil last year.