NEW YORK-- The U.S. Women's World Cup champions were saluted Friday with a ticker-tape parade along New York's vaunted Canyon of Heroes, a historic and rare moment for female athletes.
On a glorious July morning, the squad that defeated Japan 5-2 before a record-breaking U.S. television audience became the first women's sports team in history bestowed with a parade along a stretch of lower Manhattan where soldiers, kings, astronauts and the Yankees and Giants have been cheered on by hundreds of thousands.
"Being able to see something like this firsthand is something young girls can only dream of," said Samantha Ruotsi, 20, who came from Buffalo, New York. "I am so proud to have grown up in a country with such strong women and it's an inspiration to be a part of this history."
Indeed, the last time female athletes paraded along the Canyon of Heroes was in 1984, when gold medalists Mary Lou Retton and Cheryl Miller joined other U.S. medal winners -- male and female -- after the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.
"Women from sports that are dominated by men are finally getting the attention they need," said Lauren Laning, 14, a New Jersey resident. "It's inspiring to young girls."
Carli Lloyd, who led her team to a record third Women's World Cup and scored three times in Sunday's championship match, summed up the moment on Twitter Friday with a photo of herself among the throngs and the simple hashtage #CHAMPIONS.
For her play, Lloyd was awarded the Golden Ball, signifying she was the best player at the World Cup. She also tied for most goals (six) in the tournament with Celia Sasic of fourth-place Germany.
Sunday victory over the defending champion in Vancouver, British Columbia, gave the Americans their first opportunity to lift the World Cup trophy since 1999.
"We look up to them," New Jersey resident Suzy Massara, 29, said of the players she came to honor at the parade. "Nobody works harder than them. It's so great that they're bringing the nation together."
U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo, voted the tournament's best at her position and who had three saves in the final game, tweeted a photo of herself Friday with the message: "So excited to be in New York for today's #USWNTParade! Already an amazing crowd."
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the parade this week.
On Monday, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer got New Yorkers involved when she circulated a letter she sent to the mayor calling for a special parade for the U.S. women's team.
"New York City has a strong history of honoring sports achievements in the Canyon of Heroes, but has never held a parade to honor a women's team," she wrote. "Our newest soccer champions represent an opportunity for New York to recognize that heroes and role models come in all genders."
One day later, New York City first lady Chirlane McCray tweeted, "The people have spoken and they want a ticker tape parade to celebrate ... "
The cost is reportedly $2 million, with $450,000 coming from private donations, and the rest paid for by the city.
"It's nice to celebrate something with all the bad things going on right now," said Mike Mehrens, 56. "Soccer is the greatest sport in the world and we've finally reached the pinnacle. It's my first parade and I'm happy to be a part of it."
CNN's Kelly Wallace and Joseph Schatt contributed to this report.