TORONTO - Canada will welcome the World again in 2015. And this time it will be coast-to-coast.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter confirmed Canada as host nation for the FIFA 2015 Women’s World Cup Thursday. The announcement was a mere formality, after the only other ‘competitive’ bid, Zimbabwe, dropped out of the race earlier this week.
Canadian Soccer Association general secretary Peter Montopoli, speaking from the Home of FIFA in Zurich, Switzerland, insists the lack of competition to host the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup had more to do with the strength of Canada’s bid rather than other countries deeming the event undesirable.
“When we started the process there were seven countries bidding,” said Montopoli. “Many of the countries in contention were bidding for multiple FIFA events and we were just bidding for one. When the process started to unfold, they realized (Canada’s) bid stood on its own, and they felt they wanted to concentrate on other events instead.”
For all the criticism the CSA receives, this will be the second FIFA World Cup event hosted on Canadian soil in an eight year span. Canada hosted the Men’s U-20 FIFA World Cup in 2007 attracting a record setting, close to 1.2 million spectators.
Proper soccer infrastructure was the biggest challenge in 2007. Montopoli acknowledges practice facilities and community fields were sub-standard. But it’s been assured proper infrastructure will be in place this time around, benefiting soccer at all levels.
“The news benefits all our programs – the Men’s program included,” said Montopoli. “The more games are played and watched, the bigger the foot-print gets.”
Bigger means the tournament will be staged across Canada, with seven cities having confirmed their bids to play potential host city. Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Montreal, Halifax and Moncton are all candidates. Toronto, the home of Canada’s National Soccer Stadium, told the CSA it wasn’t interested.
“In October when we received the materials from FIFA, we sent out packages to each city, tourism bureau and stadium that had the capacity to host the event. We had two bid information sessions and each city had every opportunity to attend. On Nov. 8th, Tourism Toronto wrote a letter stating they were not interested.”
Tourism Toronto was contacted for comment but did not return a response. It is believed Toronto turned down the chance to host because of conflict of interest with the Pan-Am Games, which will be staged across the Greater Toronto Area, beginning July 10, 2015. The 2015 Women’s World Cup will run through the month of June.
It should be made clear; Tourism Toronto made the decision on behalf of Torontonians that they didn’t want to host the event. This has nothing to do with the CSA.
Montopoli still won’t rule out the possibility Toronto will want to join the party, but says the seven potential host cities have worked exceptionally hard on their bids and Toronto would have a lot of catching up to do.
FIFA will not move tournament dates to accommodate Toronto and the Pan Am Games.
Host cities will not be named until after initial site inspections have been conducted by FIFA in the fall.
With stadiums in development in Winnipeg and Ottawa, attention turns out east where Moncton and Halifax are intriguing options.
Moncton Stadium hosted the CFL in 2010. Further stadium upgrades to meet FIFA standards could leave the door open to a permanent Canadian Football League team landing in Atlantic Canada as a legacy project.
Halifax has already committed to financing a feasibility study whether an outdoor community stadium would benefit the municipality.
“Our rationale is that this is the right event at the right time for Halifax – the premier women’s sporting event and the most popular sport in the world fits with our city,” said Grant MacDonald of Events Nova Scotia.
A soccer specific stadium makes sense for Halifax, and could attract professional soccer to Atlantic Canada. But in the end, it will be up to the province and city to decide whether to pursue the facility or not.
The federal government has committed up to $15 million for operating costs of hosting the event. Stadiums and other infrastructure are the responsibility of participating municipalities and provinces. The CSA hopes to turn a profit from the event through ticket sales and the four domestic sponsorships/national partnerships allowed by FIFA.
It will not be a requirement for all fields to have a grass surface. Montopoli confirmed two-star quality FieldTurf is acceptable by FIFA standards.
The 2015 Women’s World Cup will be bigger and busier than ever before, with the tournament expanding from 16 to 24 teams and from 32 to 52 matches. Canada was also awarded the 2014 U-20 FIFA World Cup as part of the bid package.
Women’s soccer has been on the rise in Canada for the past decade. According to the CSA, almost 43% of players in Canada are female. And it’s translating into success on the International level. Canada has won the Women’s CONCACAF region at three different age groups over the past two years. And expectations are high for the Canadian Women when the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup kicks off in Germany this June.