The best women's soccer players in the world will be coming to six cities across Canada in the summer of 2015. FIFA president Sepp Blatter was at Ottawa's Parliament Hill Friday to make the official announcement of which Canadian cities were selected as hosts for the 2015 Women's World Cup, and, as expected, Ottawa, Vancouver, Edmonton, Montreal, Winnipeg and Moncton were chosen. (Toronto declined to bid for the event thanks to preparations for hosting the Pan-Am Games that same summer.) That should set the stage for a tremendous and historic event, one of the most high-profile women's sports competitions in the world, and one that should provide a chance to see the Canadian team excel.
The Women's World Cup isn't as well-known as the men's competition, and that's understandable considering both its recent beginnings (the tournament only started in 1991, compared to the men's tournament's debut in 1930) and the lower degree of interest many have in women's soccer. However, it's still an incredible tournament in its own right, and it's the largest single-sport women's event in the world. What's also notable is that the Women's World Cup is on the rise; it's come a long way from the initial domination of the Americans, Norwegians and Germans to a place where there are plenty of contenders around the world, as exemplified by the Japanese team's surprising victory over the U.S. in the 2011 tournament final.
That growing depth will be reflected in 2015. The tournament's expanding from 16 to 24 teams and from 32 to 52 matches, and that will allow Canada to be a part of women's soccer history. There are still definitely teams that are head-and-shoulders above the main pack, including the U.S. and Canada (as seen in Olympic qualifying this year), but the women's game is getting much better around the world, and that should make for at least some entertaining and competitive matches in all of the Canadian host cities.
Expect Canadian fans to turn out in force, too. This country's gotten behind big soccer events before, including the 2007 men's U-20 World Cup and the 2002 women's U-19 World Cup, which saw 47,000 pack Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium to watch the home team take on the U.S. in the final. Which stadium will host the 2015 final doesn't seem to have been determined yet, but Commonwealth and B.C. Place will presumably be in the running, and either would be an excellent choice. The other stadiums involved should be great sites for this tournament as well, including the new CFL stadiums in Winnipeg (to be completed this year) and Ottawa (to be completed for 2014), Montreal's Olympic Stadium and Moncton Stadium. There are strong soccer communities in each city involved, and we've seen plenty of support for the Canadian women's team over the last decade; it's not hard to imagine large numbers turning up for other matches, either, especially if enough is done on the promotion and marketing front to convince people of the quality of soccer that will be on display. Some of the world's best female athletes are coming to Canada in 2015, and it should be a great event for the country; Canada's also a perfect host for this tournament, given the interest in women's sports here (as we've seen with other events like the women's ice hockey world championships). It's a perfect fit of event and location, and it should produce a memorable experience.
It's also positive that the Canadian team seems to be on the upswing under new coach John Herdman, who led them through the Olympic qualifying campaign with flying colours. There's a long way to go before 2015, but the Canadian women's team looks like a legitimate top-10 side at the moment, and if they can keep that up, they could use the home-field boost to do something really special in a few years. The 2015 Women's World Cup will be a solid event regardless of how the locals do (the winless, goalless performance of the home side at the U-20 World Cup in 2007 didn't spoil the party), but a strong Canadian showing could make it truly special, and there seems to be a good chance that could happen. It's going to be well worth watching.