Canada continued to make an impact on the international soccer scene after setting a record for the highest total attendance in FIFA Under-20 World Cup history on Thursday night in Toronto.
With a sold-out crowd at BMO Field watching the Chile-Argentina semifinal match, the event drew a total of 1,156,187 spectators in 50 games, surpassing the previous record of 1,155,160 fans set in Mexico 24 years ago.
"This achievement is truly something special," said FIFA president Joseph S. Blatter. "The way Canada has embraced this event is both a testament to the strength and long-term potential of the sport of soccer in this country, as well as a reflection of the sporting passion in the heart of all Canadians."
All six Canadian cities played a major part in setting the record. Toronto and Burnaby games have been sold out throughout the World Cup, while Victoria and Ottawa have played to more than 95 per cent capacity.
In Montreal, the tournament registered the third-highest attendance in history for a quarter-final match between Chile and Nigeria, drawing 46,252 fans.
At Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium, 32,058 spectators showed up when Canada squared off against Congo, more than doubling the previous attendance mark in that city.
"I would like to commend everyone in this great country for the incredible support they have demonstrated throughout the competition," said FIFA vice-president and organizing committee chairman Jack Warner.
"Without a doubt, the FIFA U-20 World Cup will leave a lasting legacy for soccer in Canada, and it could not have been done without your support."
Sold-out crowds for the third-place and championship matches on Sunday should bring the total to nearly 1.2 million spectators over 52 matches, a feat that would more than double any of the last three FIFA U-20 World Cup events.
Success can be cited in bid for women's event
"Our fans have proved that soccer is a major player in this country," said Peter Montopoli, national event director for the FIFA U-20 World Cup Canada 2007.
"The Canadian record was broken, the million mark was broken, and now the FIFA U-20 World Cup record has been broken. The sporting landscape in Canada has been changed forever."
The Canadian Soccer Association also has its sights set on staging the 2011 Women's World Cup in Canada.
"FIFA can see how well this tournament is doing," soccer commentator Craig Forrest told CBCSports.ca.
"They're delighted with the way things are going and in the future, if any tournaments have a chance of coming back to Canada, we can go to them and say how well we ran the U-20 tournament."
The women's 2007 World Cup tournament takes place Sept. 10-30 in China.