U-20 World Cup a big hit

ROB LONGLEY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:56 AM ET

Imagine what soccer fans might do when they find out what the tickets will get them.

Organizers for this summer's under-20 World Cup announced yesterday 500,000 tickets have already been sold for the 24-team, 52-game event.

Considering the draw has yet to be made and those games will be spread among six Canadian cities from Victoria in the west to as far east as Montreal, it would seem quite a feat.

"For advance sales to ensure over half a million spectators before our official draw even takes place is truly a tremendous achievement," FIFA president Sepp Blatter said yesterday in a statement.

"(It) speaks volumes about the growth and popularity of soccer in Canada."

We have heard that story before, at least as it pertains to spectator appeal, so the jury is still out.

However, with such a head start in sales and some bona fide attraction with the Canadian team plus sides from Brazil and Portugal, at least the event is set up for success.

The sales brochure will get a boost at tomorrow's official draw, which will determine the six groups and settle the schedule for the biggest soccer event to hit Canada.

Organizers have committed Portugal to Toronto as well as the opening Canadian game to help ensure solid crowds at the flagship stadium at Exhibition Place.

STRONG SUPPORT

The rest of the home country's round matches will take place in Edmonton, a city that has shown strong support for Canadian teams in the past.

Those wondering where they might see traditional fan favourites Italy and England best keep looking -- neither country made the grade.

Officials from FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association toured the yet-to-be completed Toronto Stadium yesterday and say they are pleased with the progress.

The tournament, which opens on June 30 and concludes with the championship game here on July 22, will be played at six venues -- Victoria, Burnaby, Edmonton, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.

Organizers also announced recently that a game scheduled for Toronto on July 9 has been moved to Montreal's Olympic Stadium to avoid a conflict with the Grand Prix of Toronto.

The draw, which takes place at the Liberty Grand at Exhibition Place, will be aired live by CBC at 4:30 p.m.

UNDER 20

REGION

ASIA

KOREA

JAPAN

KOREA REPUBLIC

JORDAN

AFRICA

GAMBIA

CONGO

ZAMBIA

NIGERIA

CONCACAF

USA

PANAMA

MEXICO

COSTA RICA

SOUTH AMERICA

BRAZIL

ARGENTINA

URUGUAY

CHILE

OCEANIA

NEW ZEALAND

UEFA (EUROPE)

SPAIN

SCOTLAND

CZECH REPUBLIC

AUSTRIA

POLAND

PORTUGAL

HOST

CANADA


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