If you build it, will they come?

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:39 AM ET

EDMONTON -- It's gonna be huge.

At least that's the slogan. Whether the FIFA Under-20 World Cup turns out to be as big as anticipated remains to be seen. But things are heading in the right direction.

"With the number of tickets forecast to be sold before and during the competition, it will probably be the second-highest attendance of any country that has hosted the event," Canadian Soccer Association president Colin Linford said. "Our numbers will probably be the second highest that the world have ever seen -- so that is huge."

Soccer aficionados can appreciate the magnitude of the event. This is one of FIFA's marquee championships -- second perhaps only to the World Cup itself.

"Normal Canadians as well as soccer followers are buying tickets which tells us something," Linford said. "I think this is big not just for soccer followers, but it|s big to many people, especially in some of the bigger cities. When you can get 52,000 to go out and watch a game in Montreal, that's big."

The opening game will be played on June 30 with Poland going up against Brazil in Montreal. It's one of four games scheduled for that day. The final takes place July 22 in Toronto.

"Every time there's a World Cup, there's an increase in player registration in this country because new people watch the game and then they decide it's a sport they want to participate in."

Canada has traditionally done well at this age group and once made it as far as the quarter-finals of this tournament.

"It's important that Canada do well to keep interest high, but it|s also important that Canada keep performing well at this age group," says Linford.

Positive results by the Canadians should help ticket sales in Edmonton, where so far they've been less than expected.

"Montreal has sold a lot of tickets, Toronto has sold out every game, the smaller areas like Burnaby and Victoria are obviously aware that this is probably the only opportunity they'll get to see players of this calibre and they're selling well," Linford said.

"But, we're a little disappointed in Edmonton. There hasn't been the support there as of yet.

"Maybe Edmonton is a walkup crowd; I don't know. Given the fact Canada is playing there, the numbers coming out of Edmonton are a lot less than we anticipated."

Canada -- drawn in a group with Chile, Austria, and Congo -- will play two of their three group matches in Edmonton. Commonwealth Stadium -- the largest of the six venues -- will play host to nine matches, including two second-round games, a quarter-final and a semi-final.

However some soccer fans in the city feel snubbed having seen the final awarded to Toronto and its newly-constructed stadium.

"That decision was made 18 months ago and I would hate to think that people are still living in the past," Linford said.

"We have to move forward and that's one of the issues we have with soccer in Canada -- we're constantly looking back as opposed to looking forward."


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