Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Winnipeg lands seven World Cup matches

But, Investors Group Field won't host Canada in 2015

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Seven matches during the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup of soccer have been awarded to Winnipeg.

Investors Group Field will be the site of the local games in the world's largest women's soccer tournament, which will be hosted by Canada on June 6-July 5, 2015.

Winnipeg will host two games on June 8, two games on June 12, two games on June 15 and one game on June 16. The announcement was made by FIFA on Thursday in Zurich, Switzerland.

Winnipeg's games are all Group matches, or first-round games, and will not include Team Canada.

Canada will open the 24-team tournament on June 6 at Edmonton. Other Canadian host cities include Moncton, N.B., Montreal, Ottawa and Vancouver, which will host the championship game on July 5, 2015.

"We are really excited. We don't know what teams we are going to get but at the end of the day, this is the Women's World Cup of soccer and to be part of the host cities is going to be fantastic for our entire soccer community," said Manitoba Soccer Association executive director Hector Vergara, a member of Winnipeg's bid committee.

"I'm very excited to see the calendar (of games) has come out.

"It's really exciting times. We look forward to hosting all these individual teams here in Manitoba. It's going to be fantastic."

Qualification matches begin next month but Canada, already qualified as the host country, has been placed by FIFA in the the Group A1 position.

Winnipeg's games include the Group A2 vs. A3 game as well as games in Groups B, C and D.

"We unfortunately don't get A1, we unfortunately don't get Canada. But you never know who the other teams are," Vergara said.

"It's the highest level of competition on the women's side and it will be in Winnipeg. We are really happy to be part of this FIFA event."

The qualification process won't be completed until late 2014. FIFA will then hold a draw which will determine the countries in the six groups.

"You never know, you could get an England, a Brazil, an Italy, a U.S. team. Any of those teams will be strong and there's all kinds of possibilities here," Vergara said. "At the end of the day, it's the Women's World Cup so it really doesn't, to me, matter (which teams play in Winnipeg)."

Canada was awarded the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup in March of 2011. Winnipeg, supported by a $2-million contribution by the province for the bid, was selected as one of the Canadian host cities last May.

"I'm very excited to hear about these games and now it's the buildup about which teams we're going to get the chance to watch here in Winnipeg," said MSA past-president Christine O'Connor, also a member of the bid committee. "I know there are lots of people who can't wait to get their hands on some tickets."

The national organizing committee stated in a press release that tickets will go on sale in the "third quarter of 2014."

The federal government has committed about $15 million in funding to the Canadian Soccer Association to run the event.

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPAshleyPrest

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 22, 2013 C5

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