Team Canada returns to Vancouver for sold-out Mexico FIFA matchup
The match is part of the North American qualifying games for the 2018 FIFA World Cup
Canada's men's soccer team is expecting to play before a record-breaking crowd at BC Place tonight when they take on Mexico in a FIFA World Cup qualifying match.
On Tuesday, Canada Soccer said it anticipates the game will set a new attendance mark for a Canadian national team game on home soil in any sport. The previous record was set in Vancouver last summer when 54,027 fans witnessed Canada lose to England in the quarter-finals of the FIFA Women's World Cup.
"For us, it's good ... news that we are going to have a very big crowd supporting us," said Canada manager Benito Floro. "It's a big motivation to players and the staff."
The expected crowd is more than double the 20,108 that turned out to BC Place to see Canada beat Honduras in November.
"We are the soccer capital of Canada right now," said Vancouver Whitecaps president and former national team player and manager Bob Lenarduzzi.
Lenarduzzi was managing Team Canada when it played Brazil in front of 51,936 fans in Edmonton ahead of the 1994 FIFA World Cup.
"It's going to be a fantastic atmosphere and ideally the players can respond to that," he said.
It won't be an entirely friendly reception for the home side tonight. A significant portion of the expected 55,000 fans will be supporting the visitors.
"Unbelievable. It is crazy. The vast number of Mexicans that are here are driving this game," said Kingsley Bailey of Vancouver Ticket Services. "This has really brought life back to the city for sports. People are excited and they want to be there."
Vancouver sports fans might also be more willing to open their wallets to watch soccer given the plight of the local hockey team.
"A lot of fans are disenchanted now with the Canucks, and I can understand why," said Bailey.
Tonight's game will be the second straight in Vancouver for the men's national team, with Toronto's BMO field being favoured as the usual home venue since 2007.
Mexico is now ranked 22nd in the FIFA world rankings, but still boast notable names like veteran defender Rafael Marquez and former Manchester United forward Javier Hernandez.
Canada is ranked 87th in the world but hasn't lost a home game since 2013.
The two sides will play a return match in Mexico City on Tuesday at the 95,000-capacity Estadio Azteca.
The games are part of the penultimate round of North American qualifying games for the 2018 FIFA World Cup hosted in Russia.
Canada currently sits second in its group having defeated Honduras and drawing with El Salvador. The top two teams in the group will progress to the final qualifying stage starting in November.