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This article was published 6/12/2014 (1804 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Women’s sport wins but so will Winnipeg, with virtually the best draw possible for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup soccer games next summer.
Winnipeg will be home base for the United States team, and that will boost tourism and amp up business for restaurants, bars, and hotels, said Rob Gale, head coach of Canada’s under-20 men's soccer team.
"It couldn’t have gone much better with us drawing the U.S. There will be a flood of supporters (from the U.S.) on hand," said Gale, who helped organize a party at the Forks Market on Saturday to watch the draw of World Cup games. The draw, from Ottawa, played on a big-screen television.
It was pre-determined that Winnipeg wouldn’t host any games by the Canadian women’s team, so drawing the U.S. was the best outcome possible.
They are close by and "hey have the biggest entourage," from supporters to media to player agents, said Gale. The American team is also very good, ranked no. 1 in the world compared to Canada, at No. 8.
Winnipeg will also host Australian, Swedish and Nigerian teams, all of which drew into D division. Canada, as the host nation, has been named as the A1 seeds, and will play their first two group matches in Edmonton. Its bronze medal victory in the last Olympics was a surprise and teams will be more prepared for them this time, Gale said.
Michelle Kliment, an alumnus with the University of Manitoba Bison’s women’s soccer team, can’t wait for the tournament to begin.
"It’s just so exciting. Women’s sport in general is so under-appreciated," she said. The World Cup soccer could be a "catalyst" to generating greater interest in women’s sporting events generally, she said. She plans to attend all seven games, as does friend Sarah Haiko, a current Bison member.
Winnipeg will host seven matches in total. In addition to four matches from D division, the German team from B division, and the Japanese team from C division, which won the last World Cup, will also play in Winnipeg. Germany will play Thailand and Japan will play Ecuador. New Zealand will play China in another match.
"It’s going to be fabulous," said Christine O’Connor, founder of the Winnipeg Women’s Soccer League, and manager of the first Canadian Women’s Soccer Team.
"Women’s soccer is massive. People don’t always understand how big it is. Young boys as well as young girls follow it."
The U.S. games will easily sell out, she said, and over the seven matches, Manitobans will see teams among the best in the world. The Nigerian team is a developing soccer power and will be of great interest to Winnipeg’s burgeoning African community, she said.
Stefano Grande, executive director of Winnipeg Downtown BIZ, said most downtown hotels are already booked for the period from June 8 to 16 when the matches are taking place. As well, teams usually set up at least a week in advance to become acclimatized to the host country.
It will be hard for Winnipeggers not to notice something special is happening in their community, Grande said. "This is a premier international event, and Canada doesn’t host too many of these," he said. "In my opinion, there’s not a better sport in the world for bringing together people from different cultures."
Bill Redekop has been covering rural issues since 2001.
Updated on Saturday, December 6, 2014 at 4:11 PM CST: Updates story with Winnipeg schedule and details of draw at the Forks.