The famed Canyon of Heroes will become the Canyon of Heroines on Friday morning, as the World Cup champion U.S. women's soccer team becomes the first women's sports team honored with a traditional ticker-tape parade through lower Manhattan.
Hours before the scheduled 11 a.m. start, hundreds began to gather outside City Hall Plaza, where members of the team will be presented with ceremonial keys to the city. Some wore team soccer jerseys; others wore American flags draped from their backs.
Some even wore oversize Uncle Sam-style hats.
Officials said more than 12,000 people tried to get tickets to the City Hall ceremonies; only about 3,500 were available. Tens of thousands were expected to line the parade route -- the scene of more than 200 parades since the first impromptu parade following the Statue of Liberty dedication ceremonies in 1886.
"This is a momentous occasion," Leslie Goldstein, a Plainview native and resident of SoHo, said as she waited with her girlfriend at City Hall Plaza. Goldstein said she is the commissioner of the women's division of the New York Gay Football League -- that's American-style football, not soccer.
"They don't get the proper support and recognition that they deserve," she said of the traditional reaction to women's sports compared to men's sports, adding: "I think this is really a turning point."
Down near the starting point staging area on Battery Place, Raul Mosquera, 39, of Woodhaven, Queens, told a reporter he'd taken the day off from work to attend the parade. He carried photos of the players and hoped to collect their autographs.
"This is for my little girl, when she grows up," he said. "It will inspire her to play soccer -- to be the best she can."
Nearby, Jamie Minieri, 33, of Battery Park City, dressed in red, white and blue with sparkled American flags painted under her eyes, waited with her mom, Tina, 60.
Her mother, a pioneering soccer mom, said a lot of people didn't understand why she'd signed up her then-young daughter to play soccer, telling the mom bluntly: "It's a boy's game."
Now? "A lot of people didn't understand why I put so much effort into athletics," she said, pointing to her daughter. "She's a woman today, and she gained confidence from her soccer."
The barricaded streets created a nuisance for residents heading off to work Friday, causing detours. Most, however, didn't seem to mind.
Previous athletic teams honored with parades in the Canyon involved the New York Yankees, Mets and baseball Giants, as well as the football Giants and New York Rangers.
Not since Mary Lou Retton, Cheryl Miller and their fellow 1984 Olympic medal winners, including men, were celebrated after the Los Angeles summer games has a woman been given the ticker-tape treatment. The last time a woman was the exclusive focus was with a lone honoree in March 1960, when figure-skating champion Carol Heiss Jenkins, a Queens native, was honored.
The first time a woman was honored was October 1919, when King Albert and Queen Elisabeth of Belgium were feted. The first woman honored exclusively was in August 1926, when New York native Gertrude Ederle, the first woman to swim the English Channel, was celebrated.
Confetti in the Canyon will rain on the 23 players -- including stars Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach -- in recognition of their win over Japan in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday, the team's third World Cup title and first since a historic win in 1999.
Starting at 11 a.m., the team will make its way north from Battery Place in a procession of floats, vehicles and marching bands, culminating in what is expected to be a packed party in City Hall Plaza.
"It's going to be magical," Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday, adding: "This team captured the imagination of the nation. Their victory ... sends a message about the strength of women, the power of women and the changes that we need in our society."
The World Cup trophy and members of local professional soccer teams, such as the New York City Football Club, will also be part of the parade. ABC's "Good Morning America" anchor Robin Roberts and former national team member Heather Mitts will be special guests. The $2 million celebration is funded in part by private sponsors, including Nike and Major League Soccer.
National team members began Tuesday to voice their anticipation on Twitter.
"NYC we will see you Friday! #WorldChamps," team forward Morgan wrote.
"Can't wait for more confetti and to celebrate with the #BestFansintheWorld," defender Kelley O'Hara tweeted.
City workers were preparing Thursday for the parade and rally, setting up stages in City Hall Plaza, lining up police barricades along Broadway, loading confetti into bags and decorating floats at a New Jersey staging ground.
Thousands of police officers -- including anti-terrorism units -- will be on alert along the parade route, NYPD officials said.
More than 400 city Sanitation Department workers will be on hand for cleanup, the mayor's office said. Tons of debris have been collected after past ticker-tape parades. The 1999 Yankees World Series parade, for example, produced 57.4 tons of debris, the mayor's office said.
De Blasio on Thursday said the city had been bracing for the prospect of a parade since the final match on Monday, when the U.S. team bested Japan 5-2 in Vancouver and while the mayor was away on vacation with his family.
A push from Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, who circulated a petition calling for a parade, and Howard Wolfson, former deputy mayor under Michael Bloomberg, helped the plans become reality, de Blasio said.
"I can't tell you we had a beautiful plan on the shelf and we thought about this weeks and months ago," de Blasio admitted Thursday.
He added that city leaders quickly came to the conclusion a parade must be held because the championship was a statement "to the world about the growing powerful role of women in this country."
Brewer tweeted a joyous stamp of approval Tuesday with a nod to soccer commentators.
"GOOOOOAAAAAL! Ticker-tape parade at 11am Friday for @ussoccer_wnt! See you at the "Canyon of Heroines!" #USWNTParade," she wrote.
With Maria Alvarez and Matthew Chayes