Members of the World Cup champion U.S. Women's Soccer Team...

Members of the World Cup champion U.S. Women's Soccer Team celebrate their victory in a sea of confetti as they are honored at City Hall Plaza in Manhattan on Friday, July 10, 2015. Credit: Craig Ruttle

July 10 certainly will go down as a defining day in women's sports history.

Sixteen years to the day Friday, the U.S. women's national team captured its second Women's World Cup, outlasting China in a dramatic penalty-kick shootout win.

On Friday, the 2015 U.S. Women's World Cup team, which defeated Japan in the final on Sunday, celebrated its third World Cup title with a historic ticker-tape parade through the Canyon of Heroes in Manhattan.

"I'm not sure if we realize now how incredibly important this was for women's sports [and] women's soccer to have a ticker-tape parade for women in however many years," midfielder Lauren Holiday said. "I just think that we're going to look back on this day and see that it was a defining moment for women's sports."

There are so many challenges, such as whether the National Women's Soccer League can thrive, or even survive. The three-year-old NWSL is the third such U.S. league. It has followed in the footsteps of the Women's United Soccer Association and Women's Professional Soccer, which lasted three years apiece.

Olympic swimming gold medalist Donna de Varona, who co-founded the Women's Sports Foundation, was chairman of the 1999 Women's World Cup held in the United States. De Varona was a spectator at City Hall yesterday and along the parade route, taking pictures like any other fan. She still has high hopes for the sport.

"In '99 we hoped that this would be the result," de Varona said. "This was an over-the-top World Cup. It did capture another generation, but the generation before that watched it when it was six and seven. Now they're engaged. Hopefully, with so many outlets now, some network or some cable [channel] will really support the pro league so they can go to the next step."

The last woman athlete honored with a parade was Olympic figure skating champion Carol Heiss Jenkins in 1960.

USA captain Christie Rampone spoke with Jenkins, calling her an "inspiration."

"She said make sure that you look up and you take it all in," she said. "It was magical, just like she said."

Whether that magic can make history with a pro soccer league remains to be seen.

More soccer news