Today’s ticker-tape parades in NYC go almost exclusively to teams like the one Megan Rapinoe led to championship glory. Including the past two parades, both earned by the women’s soccer players, sports heroes have gotten 11 of the past 12 parades in New York over a span of 25 years. (The only exception was in 1998, when 77-year-old John Glenn and the rest of the space shuttle Discovery crew were honored.) But that wasn’t always the case. Although about 18 percent of the 196 NYC ticker-tape parades in Wikipedia’s database have commemorated sports accomplishments over the years, that ranks a distant third behind parades thrown for important heads of state (38 percent) and military figures (20 percent). Before sports went on its recent tear, it made up only 13 percent of ticker-tape parades, or roughly the same share as went to famous (nonastronaut) adventurers such as pilot Amelia Earhart and explorer Richard Byrd.
Here’s a look at all 196 New York ticker-tape parades in our data set, broken down by year and type:
When we plot out the whole history of these parades, a few things jump out:
Sports is everything now. Athletes have always gotten some share of parade glory, but there have been as many sports parades in the past 25 years as in the nearly 40 years prior, even as the overall rate of parades has dropped dramatically.1 And while you might think that a New York championship parade requires a New York-based team to win — which hasn’t happened much since the Yankees’ last dynasty ended in 20002 — the city has also been known to throw a big party for Olympians, successful national teams like the USWNT and even individuals like Sammy Sosa (yes, really) after the Dominican-born outfielder hit 66 home runs and helped provide relief for victims of Hurricane Georges in 1998.
They sure loved their parades in the 1950s and 1960s. Nearly half (48 percent) of all the parades on the list happened during the 1950s and ’60s alone. Along with the celebration of sports — baseball in its NYC heyday, plus great individual athletes such as Althea Gibson and Ben Hogan — it was the perfect moment for visiting dignitaries (50 heads of state got parades) and war heroes (21 military parades) to get honored in the wake of World War II. And then came the advent of the space program, which spawned numerous astronaut parades after the accomplishments of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. The space race represented a peak of sorts for ticker-tape parades; astronauts would be celebrated eight times from 1962 to 1971, and the end of the Apollo program in 1972 coincided with a sharp decline in the number of parades held. (The city’s near-bankruptcy in 1975 didn’t help matters either.)
The 1920s and 1930s were a prime time for adventurers. The first great period of parade activity ramped up around the start of the 1920s, not long after the end of World War I. At first, the honorees were what you’d expect — dignitaries from abroad, military leaders, heroic sea rescuers, etc. But by the middle of the decade, parades began to more frequently honor expeditions like trips to the North Pole and trans-Atlantic flights. From 1926 through 1938, more ticker-tape parades were devoted to adventurous accomplishments (19 total) than all other reasons combined (18).
There have been some bizarre excuses to throw parades over the years. If you go through the list of parades, you’re guaranteed to have at least one moment of, “Wait, why?” A few of our favorite weird commemorations included … Aimé Tschiffely, the Swiss-Argentine professor who embarked on a solo horse ride from Buenos Aires to New York; Douglas “Wrong Way” Corrigan, a pilot who accidentally flew to Ireland (instead of California) from New York;3 the 48 European journalists who went on an “American discovery” flight around the U.S. in 1949; the Order of the Knights of Pythias, a secret society that got its own parade in 1955; pianist Van Cliburn, who won the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 1958; separate parades, two weeks apart, for both the first woman to swim the English Channel and the first mother to swim the English Channel; Marquis Jacques de Dampierre, who got a 1930 parade because his long-dead ancestor happened to be Revolutionary War hero Lafayette; and Connie Mack, who was honored in New York for managing a Philadelphia baseball team for 50 years. If you are interested in reading more about NYC’s history with unnecessary parades, Splinter’s David Matthews wrote on the topic before the USWNT parade four years ago.
These things are rare now. If you’re in the New York City area Wednesday and have a chance to attend the U.S. women’s team’s parade, you should probably check it out. These massive ticker-tape celebrations used to happen several times per year, but now we’re lucky if we get one every three or four years. And if anyone on this list deserves the acclaim, it’s this American team. Amid a backdrop of calls for equal pay, this is only the 12th Canyon of Heroes parade devoted entirely to women. Before the USWNT’s 2015 parade, it had been 55 years since a woman was the sole focus of a ticker-tape parade. Now the U.S. women have earned each of the past two. That’s a remarkable accomplishment — and one worth a massive celebration in lower Manhattan.
sara.ziegler (Sara Ziegler, assistant sports editor): We’re two games into group stage of the Women’s World Cup, and there’s a lot we already know: Nine teams have already advanced to the knockout rounds, and even though she has played only one game, Alex Morgan looks like the player to beat for the Golden Boot.
But there’s also plenty that we’re still waiting to learn. How will the seeding shake out? Which of the third-place teams will advance? And how will the American women fare against more robust competition?
TerrenceDoyle (Terrence Doyle, contributor): I think it would be hard not to talk about the play of Chile’s goalkeeper, Christiane Endler, and how things could have been much worse without her sublime performance.
tchow (Tony Chow, video producer): The roster changes were a big story for the match against Chile, but I was really surprised at how some of those fringe players played. It feels really wrong to even call them second string, but players like Ali Krieger and Tierna Davidson and even Moe Brian played pretty well!
TerrenceDoyle: I think that’s right. The U.S. “bench” was a known entity coming into this tournament, but … wow. Just wow. There are a lot of great players in this tournament, but I don’t think any team has the strength in depth that the U.S. has.
sara.ziegler: It did feel like the starters might have finished some of those shots in the second half, but against a keeper like Endler, maybe not!
TerrenceDoyle: The eye test says Endler has been pretty remarkable in this tournament — some of the saves she’s made have looked impossible — but her goals prevented mark is actually in the red. One of those instances where the eye test and the analytics aren’t jelling.
neil (Neil Paine, senior sportswriter): Endler leads the entire World Cup in saves right now, with 10. South Africa’s Andile Dlamini is second with nine saves. However, she has faced 27 shots. Endler has faced fifty.
emily: That’s hockey numbers!
sara.ziegler: Holy crap.
TerrenceDoyle: Chile, ah, need more of the ball?
tchow: I am curious to know how many of those shots were on target against her though. All 50? There’s no way.
neil: Nah. Only 15. But still, a lot of danger coming her way, most due to the U.S. just controlling so much of the play.
The Americans had a higher share of all shot attempts (on goal or not) against Chile than they did in the 13-0 romp over Thailand.
And the possession percentages were roughly even between the games.
tchow: Also, it’s worth keeping in mind that Endler has faced the U.S. and Sweden. Outside of the U.S., the Swedes are tied for second with Italy with the most goals in the tournament so far.
TerrenceDoyle: Still quite a fair amount. In terms of keepers who have played in both their nation’s games, Endler is facing more shots on goal per game than any other.
emily: Has Alyssa Naeher faced the least?
neil: Somehow Carly Telford of England has faced one fewer than Naeher. (But in one game.)
TerrenceDoyle: As has Sarah Bouhaddi of France (in two games).
sara.ziegler: But don’t forget Stephanie Labbé of Canada, who has faced a grand total of ZERO shots on target. (Against Cameroon and New Zealand.)
neil: From the U.S. perspective, all of these shot differential stats really point to the idea that these first two matches were glorified warmups. What have we learned about the Americans so far? Can you learn anything from these lopsided mismatches?
TerrenceDoyle: They’ve been ruthless in front of goal, which is good for confidence going forward. They’re outperforming their expected goal numbers so far. We’ll see how that holds up against Sweden, which gave them fits in 2015.
sara.ziegler: ^^^ and in 2016!
tchow: All due respect to Thailand and Chile, that is a good perspective to keep in mind, Neil. The game on Thursday against Sweden will tell us a lot.
emily: I would have loved to see Ashlyn Harris get some minutes, but coach Jill Ellis has been very clear that it’s Naeher’s job.
tchow: Emily, I was surprised with all her changes in this second game that she didn’t give Harris some game time too.
emily: I wasn’t surprised! Ellis has been doing this since Hope Solo left.
TerrenceDoyle: Is it because goalkeeping is such a confidence-based position? You want your goalie to be in a groove.
sara.ziegler: Is it a confidence-boosting thing?
Ha — jinx
emily: But come on, give me Harris and Ali Krieger on the field together!
tchow: It would have been great to see Harris and Krieger play together. I understand Ellis for wanting to stick with her goalie, but this would have been the perfect game to bring on someone else.
TerrenceDoyle: Agree on that. And you have to figure it won’t happen going forward, barring injury or a disastrous performance vs. Sweden.
tchow: I don’t think anyone was sure how much playing time or how well Krieger would play in this tournament, but she got a full 90 minutes and more than held her own: 84 percent pass completion as a right back, and she won 71 percent of her duels, according to ESPN’s Stats & Information Group.
TerrenceDoyle: The Carli Lloyd left-footed volley against Chile is the goal of the tournament so far, idc what anyone says. The degree of difficulty, while falling backward, to get anything on that ball, let alone as much as Lloyd got on it, is high.
sara.ziegler: idk, Terrence, that Julie Ertz header was pretty incredible:
.@julieertz, back at it with the near post header goal.
TerrenceDoyle: There have been some other *absolute bangers* so far! I just can’t get my head around the Lloyd finish.
emily: What a tournament for Alex Morgan. She’s been the face of the team for years, but this feels like her real breakout on the field after grabbing only one goal in the 2015 World Cup and two in 2011, and it’s only just started!
neil: It was great to see her do the bulk of the crazy scoring in the 13-0 win.
I think even she was surprised that the goals kept coming, and coming, and coming, and coming…
TerrenceDoyle: The Golden Boot race is going to be fun. Especially if Cristiane keeps this up for Brazil.
sara.ziegler: Curious about your opinions on this: Did the U.S. let up a little after the 13-0 game? Did that criticism affect them at all?
tchow: I don’t think they let up, and I would actually be really disappointed if we find out later that they did.
TerrenceDoyle: With all due respect to Thailand, I think Chile is a stronger side with a better goalkeeper. The U.S. still dominated play and even passed the ball better/more cleanly against Chile.
neil: Even though they scored 10 fewer goals, they could have scored more if not for the huge saves.
TerrenceDoyle: 100 percent, Neil.
tchow: I honestly can’t believe how long that 13-0 scoreline stayed in the headlines and my news feeds.
neil: In fairness, that is a WILD score for a soccer game.
TerrenceDoyle: Very much so. But agree, Tony. Had to not look at soccer Twitter for, like, a week. (Which, tbh, was a welcome vacation for my brain, which is filled with worms at this point because of soccer Twitter.)
sara.ziegler: Friend of the site Michael Caley posts expected-goal maps after every match, and that one was AMAZING:
tchow: thErEs nOt EnOUgh scOrInG iN SOcCeR. tHeRes TOO MUCH ScORinG iN socCeR
emily: It’s familiar for Thailand, but this was the first time they’ve been on the other side of things. In 2018, they beat Indonesia 13-0 and Cambodia 11-0.
TerrenceDoyle: “OK, so the point of all sports is to score as many goals/points as possible.”
“WHY DID YOU SCORE AS MANY GOALS AS POSSIBLE?!?!?!”
sara.ziegler: But also, make sure you don’t celebrate your accomplishments, or celebrate the accomplishments or your teammates.
But if you don’t celebrate the accomplishments or your teammates, WHY AREN’T YOU FRIENDSSSSSSSS?
There is truly no winning.
emily: There’s never any winning in women’s sports.
sara.ziegler: Ain’t that the truth.
TerrenceDoyle: Imagine your friend worked for, like, half a decade or more to reach the pinnacle of their career, then they got there, and they celebrated, and you were like, “Sorry, your celebrations are a little MUCH.”
tchow: Nuengruetai Srathongvian, Thailand’s coach, spoke about the loss, and I think what she said should have ended all discussion about whether the scoreline was problematic. So with that in mind, let’s move on.
sara.ziegler: Let’s look ahead to Sweden, a very familiar foe. This match doesn’t matter THAT much, but it’s important for seeding, and of course the U.S. doesn’t want to lose its last group game. What can we expect out of this game?
TerrenceDoyle: (if they win and france wins, they’re on the same side and can see one another in the quarters, yes?)
TerrenceDoyle: THE U.S. SHOULD TANK.
Kidding, but only sort of.
tchow: Don’t say it, Terrence. Don’t say it. Ahhh, damn it.
TerrenceDoyle: lolol sorry
sara.ziegler: But if the Americans lose to Sweden, they could face Germany in the quarters! No easy roads.
tchow: Going back to Sara’s question, I would expect Ellis to go back to her A-team lineup for this game.
An A-Team that doesn’t include Lloyd or Press or Pugh. LOL, the US are ridiculous.
emily: Ridiculously stacked.
TerrenceDoyle: You can only play the opponent in front of you, and if that happens to be France, it happens to be France. They’re probably going to have to beat them at some point if they want to win the whole thing, so if that’s in the quarters, it’s in the quarters.
So, yeah, roll that A-Team out and exact revenge on Sweden.
Sorry, that was aggressive. I mean Sweden no harm.
sara.ziegler: The U.S. is the only team with more expected goals so far (11.28) than Sweden’s 8.09, according to ESPN’s Stats & Information Group.
They’ve played the same competition, of course, but that has to be a little worrying to the Americans.
TerrenceDoyle: And Sweden hasn’t been taking full advantage of that high xG mark either.
sara.ziegler: Yeah. And they’ve had just 18 shots on target to the U.S.’s 29.
TerrenceDoyle: Kosovare Asllani and Madelen Janogy have both been quietly good so far for Sweden. I think this match could be about containing them, honestly.
sara.ziegler: Leaving the U.S.-Sweden match behind, which other teams have impressed you all the most?
tchow: I was just about to say Italy too. We gave them just a 59 percent chance of advancing to the round of 16 before the tournament. They’ve already qualified.
TerrenceDoyle: Canada are low-key looking very dangerous right now.
They’re scoring less than their xG numbers say they should be and winning anyway. If they start taking their chances, they’ll look a threat. Especially if Christine Sinclair starts burying her chances. Which, I mean, she will.
sara.ziegler: Argentina has been really surprising! They had a very smart game plan against England.
TerrenceDoyle: Goalkeeper Vanina Correa has been absurd.
sara.ziegler: The one time they deviated from their plan … England scored.
TerrenceDoyle: The Correa save on the Nikita Parris penalty kick was SPECIAL. Also LOL that it was England’s first ever pen miss at a World Cup. The men should take notes.
Correa leads in goals prevented per 90 among goalies who have played in both of their team’s games as a result. She’s also the main reason Argentina still has a chance at advancing.
tchow: Argentina is another squad our projections were down on and probably wrong about. They have a 25 percent chance of making it now, which still seems low to me.
sara.ziegler: They’re looking up at quite a few teams that already have 3 points. And they just have the 1.
TerrenceDoyle: Cruel sport. They’ve played better than their points total suggests.
neil: Somehow our model had Argentina rated lower than both Chile and Thailand (!) before the tournament. (Still does, actually.)
sara.ziegler: Is that part of the consequence of not being able to schedule enough matches?
It’s been great to see them play so well, though, given what they’ve been through.
tchow: Argentina could still get second place if England ends up beating Japan in the final group game.
TerrenceDoyle: As a Correa fan boy, I hope they make a run at it.
tchow: There’s been a lot of talk about goalkeeper performance in this chat already, but Correa has been ridiculous. She has an 89 percent save percentage right now.
sara.ziegler: As the first of the third matches get started right now, what are your final thoughts on what we’ve seen so far?
emily: Sinclair is four goals away from breaking Abby Wambach’s record. Will she do it?
TerrenceDoyle: VAR is bad and is turning the sport into a surveillance state. That yellow on the pen save for Sydney Schneider in Jamaica v. Italy was … I mean, it was terrible. It’s soooo hard to save a pen. The success rate for shooters is something like 70 percent. It’s taken from so close, the net is so big, goalies should be able to do whatever they want.
sara.ziegler: It will be very interesting to see if any changes come to VAR after all of this.
Seems worse than last year in the men’s World Cup.
TerrenceDoyle: Straitjackets for defenders because everything is a handball now.
tchow: Next chat, can we devote the entire thing to kit talk? I’ve been dying to talk to someone about China’s gray away kits.
tchow: There are so many exciting games that don’t involve the U.S. to close out these group stages! Netherlands vs. Canada in Group E. England vs. Japan in Group D. Group C is all kinds of crazy with Brazil, Australia and Italy. More soccer!!
TerrenceDoyle: Group C is definitely in for a wild finish, Tony. Soccer is fun, the World Cup is fun!!!
The rest of the world has been catching up to the U.S. women’s national soccer team for the past 30 years, though the achievements haven’t been evenly distributed around the globe. European teams in particular have narrowed the gap, but teams from South American and Africa are still searching for success.
Entering this year, seven of the top eight World Cup squads of all-time by Soccer Power Index were from either the U.S. or Germany. In this World Cup, France and Australia are in that conversation, both rated more highly than the world champion U.S. team of 1999. This year’s teams from the Netherlands, England, Japan and Canada are close behind.
This is no accident. The European federation reported almost 2.1 million registered female players in FIFA’s 2014 women’s football survey, just shy of the 2.3 million registered in the U.S. and Canada alone. Elsewhere in the world, though, progress has been slower. The developing African and South American federations reported just 54,055 and 25,459, respectively. The top 20 nations in FIFA’s rankings had 91 percent of the registered players.
Since the U.S. won the inaugural Women’s World Cup in 1991, the primary reason given for the Americans’ international success has been Title IX, the 1972 law that prohibits gender discrimination in federally funded educational programs. The national team still faces inequality: Players filed a gender-discrimination lawsuit in March and have used some of the interest in the World Cup to spotlight unequal pay. Still, the American players are the products of the world’s most successful player development organization. If a country set out to build an international powerhouse from scratch, the process would look a lot like what has happened in the U.S. in the past 47 years: Require equal scholarship funding for male and female college athletes; furnish rosters with the fruits of a nationwide travel soccer system; and pump money into the national team for the best players to train together and test themselves against the most skilled opponents in the world.
In Europe, the best clubs, leagues and national teams are funneling money into the women’s game like never before. The number of professional and semipro players is up from 1,680 in 2013 to 3,572 in 2017. The number of girls’ youth teams is up from 21,285 in 2013 to 35,183.
Europe may also have an advantage that isn’t universally present: the interest in soccer that has made so many of its nations dominant on the men’s side. The total women’s football budget across the continent has more than doubled from 50.4 million euros in 2012 to 111.7 million euros in 2017, according to a report from the European federation. Barclays, the title sponsor of the English Premier League, has signed a three-year sponsorship deal with the Women’s Super League, the top women’s professional league in England. Atletico Madrid and FC Barcelona’s women’s teams played in March before an announced crowd of 60,739, a world record for club matches. That’s an anomaly for anywhere, including Europe, but it also far exceeds any club crowd in the U.S.
With more resources, European clubs are attracting more of the world’s top players, and the most successful women’s soccer organization in the world is not an American franchise but France’s Olympique Lyonnais, which has won six of the past nine Champion’s League finals. France has the highest-paying women’s soccer league in the world, according to Sporting Intelligence’s 2017 global sports salaries report. The average player salary in France’s top league was $49,782, compared with $43,730 in Germany, $35,355 in England and $27,054 in the American NWSL. The maximum salary this year in the NWSL is $46,200, while Lyon reportedly pays several players in the six figures. Fifteen of the club’s players are on World Cup rosters: eight for France and seven spread across six other countries.
On other World Cup contenders, though, women face myriad issues, primarily that the national federations pay them little or nothing and that international matches are difficult to schedule. Teams in developing countries play in the World Cup and the Olympics (if they qualify) and in their continental tournaments, but they rarely find matches outside of those years. By August 2016, only four of 10 teams in the South American federation were in FIFA’s rankings because they had played so infrequently that they were deemed “inactive.”
Argentina, ranked 37th on the women’s side, may be the biggest example of that disparity. Its players went on strike in 2017 after going unpaid, and they have had to pay for their own travel, uniforms and health insurance. In March, the national federation gave the 16-team women’s league professional status — but the teams were allocated just $2,600 per month for the top eight players, or about $330 each.
In Africa, the conditions are similar. The Super Falcons of Nigeria have won 11 of 13 African titles and have qualified for every Women’s World Cup. But their coaches and players have often worked without pay. The team protested at its hotel after winning the 2016 African Cup of Nations, refusing to leave until the federation paid the salaries and bonuses the players were owed. “This is a fight about the welfare of the team,” forward Asisat Oshoala told BBC Sport at the time. “It’s about the way the team has been handled over the years. We are champions. We went out to fight for the nation even without being paid. Not everything is about money, but of course it is an issue.”
With women’s soccer development still emerging in much of the world, several countries have struggled to schedule even friendlies. Last year, with another World Cup trip looming, Nigerian midfielder Ngozi Okobi implored her country’s federation to arrange “something big” for the team. “We’ve witnessed how the gap is gradually closing on the continent between us and others,” she said. “We can’t wake up one morning without top matches and then start traveling to France.” Governing bodies, though, have lagged in providing funding for such matches, placing another roadblock between these countries and international success: When they do put together a group of 20 competitive players, who do they play?
In all of these areas, the quadrennial World Cup is critical for assessing progress and laying the foundation for more development. For Thailand, South Africa or Argentina, a win in the group stage — or even a goal or two — can help raise the profile of women’s soccer back home. An important piece in the equation is FIFA, which has taken steps in recent years to move toward promoting the women’s game. The world governing body established a women’s football division in 2016 with an eye toward reaching 60 million female players worldwide.
Khalida Popal is an activist for women’s soccer, the kind the sport has relied on for years. She grew up in Kabul, Afghanistan, playing in hiding during the Taliban regime. She founded the Afghan women’s football league and practiced on a NATO base before later leaving the country amid death threats from extremist groups and seeking asylum in Denmark. Now an administrator for the Afghan women’s national team, she works to bring sports to European kids in refugee camps. Count her among many who see the World Cup as a potential spark for developing countries to place more resources in women’s soccer and for girls to become familiar with the sport. “There’s still a long, long way to go, but if we compare … it is happening,” Popal said. “Many positive changes are taking place.”
Stipends of $330 per month for the Argentine players and endorsement deals for European leagues are marginal, but they are steps. Countries of all kinds are working to build women’s soccer programs the way the U.S. did — they’re just a few decades behind.