Over the next 16 months, Canada will find itself at the centre of the world of women’s football. Eighty-four matches over two massive tournaments will make sure of that, with Saturday set to herald the next staging post on the road towards the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup 2014 and the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015™.
The draw for the former tournament in Montreal, with all 16 places now assigned, is a reminder of what lies in store this August, and of further treats assured at next year’s senior event. Canada has never hosted a Women’s World Cup before, but it does know all about the U-20 competition, having staged a hugely successful inaugural edition back in 2002.
The appetite for the then fledgling event, and for women’s football in general, was underlined by the crowd of 47,784 that packed in to watch the final, setting a record for the competition that stands to this day. Canada icon Christine Sinclair was among the players on show that day, and she not only remembers it as “an incredible experience”, but is confident the players taking part in this year’s event can expect the same kind of wholehearted backing.
Sinclair’s confidence is shared by Peter Montopoli, Chief Executive Officer for the National Organising Committee of both tournaments, who has seen first-hand the enthusiasm and excitement that has been steadily building.
"The people in Canada are delighted to be hosting these tournaments," he said. "They want to have a significant part in the success of the tournaments, from buying tickets and watching the games on television to serving as volunteers."
The launch of a National Volunteer Programme in October has indeed been one of several notable steps taken over the past year, with tickets for the U-20 Women’s World Cup having gone on sale, the Women’s World Cup match schedule unveiled, and qualifiers held across the world. Several thousand volunteers have already stepped forward, and Saturday’s draw is just the latest step in a journey that Montopoli envisages continuing long after the Women’s World Cup final on 5 July next year.
"We're trying to change the landscape of sport in Canada," he explained. "We believe it is the right thing to do to host these two tournaments and we believe the sport is heading in the right direction."
The U-20 action will take place across four cities - Edmonton, Moncton, Montreal and Toronto – with the promise of glimpsing ‘tomorrow’s stars today’ justified by the evidence of previous editions. Sinclair, after all, is just one of several world-renowned players to have graced this particular tournament, with the list of award winners alone including the likes of Marta, Alex Morgan and Dzsenifer Marozsan.
There will certainly be plenty of players competing in this year’s event eyeing a return to Canada in 2015, with qualifiers for the Women’s World Cup having got underway as early as last April. Emulating the exemplary tournament held in Germany in 2011 will be a feat in itself, although organisers are confident that their six venues - Edmonton, Moncton, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver and Winnipeg – will showcase the very best of what their spectacular country has to offer.
“The FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015 marks the first major sporting event hosted in Canada from coast to coast, from Vancouver, British Columbia on the west coast to Moncton, New Brunswick in Atlantic Canada,” said Victor Montagliani, President of the Canadian Soccer Association and Chair of the National Organising Committee. “The successful hosting of these competitions will fulfil our strategic priority to encourage and oversee the growth of the game in our country and leave a legacy for sport, for women, and for Canada that reaches far beyond the competition."
Canada has big ambitions, and is primed and ready to deliver. With women’s football on the up, and this host nation determined to do it justice with two world-class events, the next 16 months – starting with Montreal on Saturday – are sure to be unforgettable.
Follow the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Canada 2014 draw and keep up-to-date with all the latest news on FIFA.com and on twitter at @FIFAWWC.