Women's World Cup Host Canada Strives To Put Shine Back On Soccer
The corruption investigations swirling around soccer's world governing body could cast a shadow over the FIFA Women's World Cup. It kicks off Saturday in Canada.
A FIFA moderator tried vainly to steer the discussion toward the teams in competition during a news conference in Vancouver on Thursday to preview the 2015 Women's World Cup. But the mushrooming investigations of the business side of soccer proved unavoidable.
Victor Montagliani, the chairman of the Canadian organizing committee, said the scandal has had no effect on ticket sales.
"I think that it is a positive thing that the first tournament after this -- whatever happened last week -- is the Women's World Cup because women's football is a very pure form of football,” Montagliani said. “I think women's football can shine some light in the dark clouds that are hanging over the game."
Montagliani assured reporters that Canada's successful bid for the World Cup was untainted by corruption. He explained there was not even a temptation to resort to bribery because Canada was the only country to make a serious bid in 2011 when FIFA selected this year's tournament host.
The Women’s World Cup kicks off Saturday in Edmonton when Canada plays China. The USA's first game is in Winnipeg next Monday against Australia. Team USA comes to Vancouver to play Nigeria on June 16. That match is nearly sold out.
The U.S. Women's National team includes five players with Northwest ties. The best known player from the region is probably starting goalkeeper Hope Solo. She appears to be back in good graces with the national team after being suspended for one month earlier this year for off-the-field misbehavior.
Solo is joined by her Seattle Reign teammate Megan Rapinoe. This will be Rapinoe's second world cup. She has a key role as a playmaker on offense. The rival Portland Thorns professional team contributed star striker Alex Morgan and reserve Tobin Heath.
Former Seattle Reign forward Sydney Leroux still has local fans, even though she now plays professionally for Western New York. Leroux was raised with dual citizenship just across the border in Surrey, B.C. She chose to play for Team USA in her late teens.
Vancouver is one of six host cities for the tournament in Canada. Nine matches will be played at BC Place stadium over the next month. The stadium can seat up to 55,000 fans for soccer.
The games happening close to home here include five matches in the preliminary group round, then three elimination matches and then the plum, the World Cup final.