Hamilton soccer officials are expecting big things on and off the pitch during the 2015 Pan Am games and local soccer fans couldn't be happier.
Mayor Bob Bratina announced Wednesday by email to councilors that all 48 games, men's and women's, will be played in the city. An earlier plan had the games divided between Hamilton, Burlington and Toronto.
The Canadian women's team comes in as defending champions. They beat Brazil in 2011 on penalties in Guadalajara, Mexico. Canadian women also won medals in 2003 (silver) and 2007 (bronze).
Al Carrafiello, President of Hamilton and District Soccer Association, says the Pan Am Games should result in more children playing soccer in the city. "From a business point of view there is a huge spike in registration numbers. Even when the World Cup in on there is a spike," he says. "We'll probably see a spike starting next year."
More women playing soccer
Carrafiello says there has been a great surge in the number of women and girls playing soccer and that the Women's World Cup put Canada on the soccer map. "In Canada, 44 per cent of total registrations are women. I searched Great Britain. The whole country is about twice the size of Canada population-wise. They have 160,000 women registered to play soccer. We have roughly 350,000."
Zak Haddad sells soccer gear on James St. N. at his store Soccer Heaven. He says the game has been on the rise for girls and boys since the 1994 World Cup in the U.S. He says "all the kids, they love soccer. They want to be soccer players. They watch the games. They know all the players. I have lots of business from kids here."
All games are expected to be played at Ivor Wynne Stadium. Carrafiello is excited that the stadium will be refurbished and expects "a state-of-the-art stadium."
In 2015 Canada will also host the Women's World Cup. Last week, six host cities were announced. Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, Winnipeg and Moncton, N.B. made the list.
The 2015 Pan Am team roster could include Ancaster's Melissa Tancredi. She was part of the team that won gold in Mexico and she could be a member of the 2015 roster.
The Pan Am 2015 organizing committee, is scheduled to announce its finalized list of Pan Am venues at a news conference Friday morning.