Monday, October 27, 2014
This week the United States Women’s National Team marched decisively toward qualifying for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup by winning the CONCACAF Championship. The top three teams automatically earn a berth and the fourth place team will participate in a play-off against a CONMEBOL team (South America) for one last spot that the two leagues share. Presently, they are ranked as the top women’s team in the world. The World Cup will be played June 6 – July 5, 2015 across Canada. Having watched the CONCACAF games, I’m impressed with the quality of soccer. The matches have so much to offer youth players. While we focus on the male superstars, we too often forget the level of soccer that women play. Skill, team tactics, determination, power, and spectacular performances come together with the women’s matches. These are great opportunities for youth players, both girls and boys, to witness some of the brightest and most athletic players in the world practice their craft.
I mention all of this because having the World Cup in Canada means it’s more accessible to us than any of the upcoming Men’s World Cups. In 2018, the men will play in Russia. Who knows what our relationship will be with Russia by then given recent world events. I also remember the 1980 Olympics in Moscow that America boycotted, so there’s a precedent for not participating due to politics. The 2022 World Cup will be in Qatar in the heart of summer, so heat will be a tremendous factor. Again, we may find politics playing a role in who attends the event, to the point some teams may not feel safe to participate. The Middle East will hopefully settle down by then, but it may also explode further. Given that backdrop, Canada will be quiet, safe and manageable for families and teams.
Soccer fans support and promote the men’s game, yet some of the most athletic and amazing players come from the “fairer sex.” When looking at World Cup records, women stand equal with the men, and several women surpass the men in the number of consecutive World Cups and goals. Nail-biter games have elevated the Women’s World Cup. In 2011, the U.S. lost to Japan in an extra-time game that had breathtaking moments of great play and close calls. They beat China in 1999 in a double overtime game that was decided by penalty kicks. In six Women’s World Cups, the U.S. has won twice and come in either second or third in the other four years. It’s a pretty amazing record, one that promises to continue next year. This is all the more reason for young fans to come watch live matches at such a high international level that are at our doorstep. The United States obviously has an amazing team, but Japan, Brazil, Germany, Norway and Sweden have top squads that offer intense competition and crowd-pleasing play. Certainly, you can watch these games on TV, and at a bare minimum that’s what we soccer families should be doing. But given this great opportunity to go see matches live, I’m hoping parents and youth soccer clubs will seize the good fortune the locations offer.
FIFA, through Ticketmaster, tender a number of ticket packages that include a full pass and a half pass to the venues across Canada. Those who purchase the packages will have the first chance to buy tickets to the finals on July 5 in Vancouver. Specific seats for the packages will not be available until November, so right now all packages can be obtained. However, once the teams are selected and the venues where those teams will play announced, ticket sales will pick up and sell out quickly. You can either take a chance now to buy passes for a stadium close to you or you can wait for the schedule and risk not getting good seats or even any seats. United States matches will sell out quickly. You can get tickets through this link at FIFA www.fifa.com/womensworldcup/organisation/ticketing/. As a warning, you will only have two minutes to complete your order, so have your credit card ready before you open up the site. Group sales are available through the same link if your youth team wants to attend some games. One last warning, remember that you now need a passport or a passport card to travel to and from Canada, so if you don’t have one of those documents for everyone in your party, you should apply now. Passport cards are the least expensive and get you into Canada and Mexico for land crossings as well as the Caribbean and Bermuda sea ports but not for air travel to any of those locations.
The drama, athleticism, and excitement of international soccer isn’t limited to the men’s teams. For a much more reasonable cost and considerably easier travel, you and your family can attend the top level of international competition. While we have to separate the men and women due to some physical differences in strength and force, there is no real separation in skill and team tactics. The chance to participate in a world-class event will be available just north of us in a country that speaks English, has a currency close to our own, and a pleasant summer climate. You couldn’t ask for a better family soccer trip. These women do have professional options but at far lower pay than any of the men make. If you go, you will be witnessing the dedication and passion of soccer from players who do it more for love of the sport than for wages and endorsements. That kind of intensity for country and sport argues for some really special competition where youth players can see the best that the world offers and the heart it takes to be the best.