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Winnipeg will be one of six Canadian host cities for the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup, which has been billed as the globe's single biggest women's sporting event.
The Manitoba capital will share hosting duties with Vancouver, Edmonton, Ottawa, Montreal and Moncton, N.B.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter and the Canadian Soccer Association made the announcement in Ottawa on Friday. Seven Canadian cities were in the bidding, with only Halifax eliminated. Toronto opted not to participate, choosing to concentrate on host duties for the Pan Am Games being held the same year.
"We are all excited about this," said Manitoba Soccer Association executive director Hector Vergara via telephone from Ottawa. "We just walked out of the press conference with FIFA president Sepp Blatter and we received the ball and the information that Winnipeg is one of the host cities for the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup.
"We anticipated the news, but now that it's official, it's a source of great excitement and relief. It's a reality, and we are happy as Manitobans to host the world in 2015."
Canada was awarded the event in March 2011 after Zimbabwe pulled out of the running.
Canadian captain Christine Sinclair told TSN on Friday playing at home will be wonderful for her squad.
"As a Canadian player, we didn't have a chance to play too many home games except for a few cities," she said. "And this will be a good way for us to see these games across the country."
The schedule of tournament games, expected to kick off in June 2015, will not be announced until December 2014. However, Vergara said Winnipeg is likely to host six or seven matches.
The bulk of the action in Winnipeg will be first-round games, but there is potential for a second-round game and perhaps even a semifinal, depending on how discussions unfold between the CSA and FIFA.
"I'm thrilled that the biggest sport in the world and the biggest women's sporting event in the world is coming to Winnipeg," said Mayor Sam Katz. "A lot of people have worked very hard on this and it will be a great thing for our city."
It's unknown if Winnipeg would host a game involving the Canadian team.
"Canada 2015 has already made history, as this will be the first FIFA Women's World Cup in which 24 national teams will participate," said Blatter. "I am really pleased that football fans in cities across the country, from east to west, will have the opportunity to take part. The host cities play a crucial role in delivering a FIFA competition, and I am sure that seeing world-class footballers across Canada will inspire a whole new generation of girls and women to get involved in the game."
Games in Winnipeg are expected to be played at the new Investors Group Field, but the CFL's Winnipeg Blue Bombers have not yet come to terms with the CSA on the use of their soon-to-be-completed facility and would only offer the following:
"Negotiations are still taking place with the Canadian Soccer Association, and the Winnipeg Football Club will offer no further comment until all negotiations are complete," said a text from the team's communications staff.
That being said, it's a given that the Winnipeg matches will be held at the new facility.
In fact, Premier Greg Selinger said Investors Group Field at the U of M played a role in cinching the FIFA tournament.
"It will act as a central venue for some of the bigger, more well-attended parts of the tournament," he said.
"It also shows that the investments we have in soccer and the stadium are a way to attract significant tourism dollars to Manitoba and it helps grow the economy. These facilities are world-class facilities, and it's been recognized by FIFA's decision to come here."
Selinger said the province contributed $2 million towards securing the event.
"It's one of those things we can do a really good job of," he added. "It's a real boost to women's sports."
Other stadiums likely to hold World Cup games include refurbished Frank Clair Stadium in Ottawa, BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, Olympic Stadium in Montreal, Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium and Moncton Stadium.
Vergara says Winnipeg is ready to stage such an event.
"We have a reputation for hosting events like this, such as the Pan Am Games. We are ready for this and we will do a great job," he said.
The federal government has already committed up to $15 million in funding to the CSA to run the event.
-- with files from Postmedia and Bruce Owen
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