Under-20s over hump

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:23 AM ET

If it gets built -- on time, of course -- they will come.

An estimated 100 million viewers worldwide tuning in to the final of the 2007 under-20 World Cup, for starters.

Some of the best young players in the world for arguably the biggest soccer event to be played in Canada, for another.

And, Canadian Soccer Association officials are confident, a huge boost to the sport's development in this country.

But before the tournament arrives next summer, Toronto's new soccer stadium at Exhibition Place has to be built.

The CSA's bid hinged on the stadium, which will play host to the opening ceremonies and the Cup final, becoming a reality

With a hole in the ground and construction humming, organizers yesterday proclaimed it a sure thing the Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., project will be done on time.

"It was a question a year ago: What's Plan B," CSA chief operating officer Kevan Pipe said. "At some point in time, people have got to start realizing that the sun is going to rise on this.

"The exterior structure will be finished in October and the field turf installation will be laid. All that will be left is the interior finishing.

"It is time to stop the second-guessing."

MLSEL will operate the facility for its main partner in the project, the City of Toronto. MLSEL vice-president Bob Hunter said yesterday the simplicity of the 20,000 seat structure will help keep construction on schedule.

'SIMPLE DESIGN'

"It's actually a fairly simple design to build," Hunter said. "The most complicated elements are elements that can be built this summer. The stands are pre-fab, off-site.

"I can absolutely assure you we will (be done on time.)"

Hunter, Pipe and FIFA vice-president Jack Warner were at Exhibition Place yesterday to unveil the official tournament logo and offer an update following a nine-day cross-country tour to inspect other under-20 World Cup sites.

Warner said stadiums in Victoria and Burnaby will need some updates before the tournament kicks off next July.

As well, Pipe says he expects to finalize a deal soon to confirm Montreal's Molson Stadium as a venue.

Warner acknowledged that Toronto is the key venue, however, and is satisfied old promises are being kept.

"When we met with the CSA four years ago, I said if they could build a field in Toronto, I would work to make sure they could have (the tournament)," Warner said. "Two years ago, I reported the same thing.

"I must say I am very pleased. Nothing we have seen is insurmountable."


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