Soccer's success?

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:47 AM ET

The plan is to make the Mexicans go out there wearing their little soccer pants, freezing their soccer balls off in a guaranteed goose-pimple producer in Edmonton in late October.

It's been in the works for weeks.

The Canadian Soccer Association was expected to announce a World Cup qualifying game here, Oct. 19, pretty much the moment they dispatched Saint Vincent & The Grenadines on the weekend to reach the group stage of qualifying - where they used to begin before things went real bad four years ago.

The announcement has yet to be made because the much-maligned CSA finds itself with yet another sticky wicket.

OK, sticky wicket is cricket and it is hardly fair to that sport to be in the same sentence as the CSA.

But the CSA didn't ask the players where they want to play.

And nobody asked Edmonton fans if they wanted to watch them play, much less, on Oct. 19.

The plan was to have Canada open against Jamaica at BMO field in Toronto on Aug. 20, play Honduras at Saputo Stadium in Montreal on Sept. 26 and meet mighty Mexico in Edmonton Oct. 19.

SNUBBED BY THE CSA

Edmonton is the city snubbed by the CSA, which chose Toronto over Edmonton for the final of the FIFA U-20 World Cup - despite all the ballistic successes here.

The idea of playing Mexico here on Oct. 19 is that Mexico is the traditional power of CONCACAF with the massive advantage of playing their home games at altitude and in the heat and pollution in Mexico City. Edmonton on Oct. 19 is pretty much the opposite of that.

"That's essentially the thinking," Canadian coach Dale Mitchell said in a telephone interview yesterday.

Eleven years ago they tried the same thing here, but on Oct. 12. There was snow on the ground when the Mexicans arrived and the Canadians held them to a 2-2 draw in zero-degree weather before a crowd of only 11,806.

The tie put the Mexicans through to the World Cup.

Historically, the Canadian national teams have preferred to play here because of the size of the crowds and the fact Edmonton fans cheer for them instead of the other team - as often happens, particularly in Toronto.

The largest crowds for national team games in Canada have all come here.

The all-time record is 51,936 to watch Canada tie Brazil 1-1 in Edmonton on June 5, 1994.

On July 7, 1993, the first World Cup qualifying game was played here against Australia. It drew 40,000.

There were 25,000 here for a World Cup qualifier against Trinidad-Tobago on July 16, 2000 - the largest crowd of the 2000s and the only crowd over 20,000 in more than a decade.

And, of course, the most ballistic hosting in all of Canadian soccer history was the FIFA U-19 Women's World Championship, when Edmonton fans filled Commonwealth Stadium for Christine Sinclair, Kara Lang and the gang to inspired FIFA to give Edmonton the men's U-20 World Cup in the first place. There's no guarantee of a crowd on Oct. 19 in a town that gives the game the cold shoulder if it is held here, no matter what the temperature is that day.

That's part of it.

"Most teams are trying to find a home-field advantage because the games in this group are going to be very, very close," said Mitchell of Canada advancing to the next round of qualifying in the toughest of all groups. "The players feel the best way is to hold all the games in one venue. They feel that has real advantage.

"The players feel that playing in three different places doesn't give the team time to get completely comfortable with the venue. I understand that. The players' preference is to play all three games in Montreal," he said of the venue where they played the home leg of the home-and-home series with Saint Vincent & The Grenadines.

"It's a new facility in terrific condition. The grass field is just outstanding, the likes of which we haven't seen in Canada for awhile."

BMO field in Toronto is artificial field turf, while Edmonton's grass stadium in Commonwealth Stadium was a rough romp last year for the FIFA U-20 World Cup. It isn't likely to be any better so late in the football season.

"My understanding is that the dates being held in Toronto and Edmonton are not written in stone and that it still needs to be resolved," said Mitchell.

In the end, he said, the CSA decides. And that's another part of this.

IMAGE PROBLEMS

The CSA has had major image problems in recent years. Especially after not allowing the women's team to host the recent Olympic qualifying tournament at home, forcing the team to beat Mexico in Juarez, Mexico, to advance to the Beijing Olympic Games. It's going to be fascinating to find out how this one turns out.


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