Michael Loccisano/Getty
July 10, 2015 05:35 PM

The U.S Women’s Soccer team made history Friday when they were honored in New York City with the first-ever ticker tape parade for a women’s sports team.

Following their World Cup win Sunday, the entire 23-member team proudly wore their gold medals as they rode 12 floats down the ‘Canyon of Heroes’ to a cheering crowd of thousands.

Mayor Bill de Blasio – who rode a float with his wife Chirlane McCray, soccer stars Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe, and head coach Jill Ellis – reflected on the monumental event.

“From our point of view, the American celebration of this team would not be complete unless they came here and got a ticker tape parade and went through the ‘Canyon of Heroes’ and they were treated like the historic achievers that they are,” de Blasio – who also gave the team a key to the city and spoke at a City Hall ceremony following the parade – tells PEOPLE.

“What immediately gripped me when the idea was presented is here’s a moment to speak to young women all over America and all over the world, who deserve to see these champions honored just as men would be,” he also said.

That sentiment also rang true for the city’s First Lady.

“It was unbelievable that there were so many people – men, women, children – but there were so many girls and that’s what really moved me. There were so many little girls screeching and yelling and laughing,” McCray tells PEOPLE. “Feeling the power and strength of these women is a moment I will remember for a long, long time.

Plus, the victorious team members seemed just as enthusiastic as the fans.

“So excited to be in New York for today’s #USWNTParade! Already an amazing crowd!” Solo, 33, captioned one Instagram photo. In another she wrote: “We couldn’t be more excited to be here! #USWNTParade.”

Defender Meghan Klingenberg seconded that excitement. “I’m on a float,” she wrote on Facebook. “Everybody look at me cause I’m standing on a float! #USWNT”

The mayor also noted how much the team was taken aback by the outpouring of support.

“I think for them there was a certain sense of recording the moment,” he says. “What I loved is that Carli had the GoPro with her and was filming and waving and Megan literally had a Polaroid camera. They were very humble about it.”

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