Canada-U.S. women's soccer match in Winnipeg excites fans

Soccer fans are set to pack Winnipeg's Investors Group Field tonight to watch Canada's national women's soccer game take on their American rivals.

Investors Group Field hosts friendly match starting at 7 p.m.

Team Canada midfielder Desiree Scott (11) warms up during practice in Winnipeg on Wednesday. Team Canada was practising in preparation for its friendly match against Team USA on Thursday at Investors Group Field. (John Woods/Canadian Press)

Soccer fans are set to pack Winnipeg's Investors Group Field tonight to watch Canada's national women's soccer game take on their American rivals.

The Canadians will have a home crowd edging close to 30,000 to cheer them on at Investors Group Field, the home of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, for Thursday's friendly match.

The game begins at 7 p.m. Some tickets are still available on Ticketmaster's website.

Members of Canada's national women's soccer team, including Scott and coach John Herdman, left, at a news conference after practice on Wednesday. (Angela Johnston/CBC)
A few young soccer enthusiasts staked out the stadium as early as Wednesday, hoping to get an autograph from Canadian captain Christine Sinclair or a photograph with her.

"It's like [an] amazing opportunity for us to see this game," said Stephanie Friesen, 15, who plays soccer in the city.

"It's like maybe [a] once-in-a-lifetime opportunity because they don't really come to Winnipeg that much."

Friesen said one player she is particularly excited to see is midfielder Desiree Scott, who is from Winnipeg.

"As soon as I heard of her, I was like, 'Wow, this is amazing,'" she said of Scott.

"She's from Winnipeg and she made it, so I guess it really inspires a lot of kids that they can make it too."

National rivalry

Canada is ranked seventh in the world in women's soccer and the U.S. sits at No. 1.

The rivalry between the two countries intensified after Canada's semifinal loss to the United States at the last Olympics. The U.S. team went on to win gold but Canada won the bronze medal, an event which has meant a lot for women's soccer.

Team Canada forward Christine Sinclair stretches during practice in Winnipeg on Wednesday. (John Woods/Canadian Press)
Canadian coach John Herdman said the country needs to do more capitalize on the strong base of players now developing across Canada.

"We've got the third-largest playing population in the world and we can't produce a consistent podium team," he told reporters on Wednesday, after the team's final practice before the game.

He said there are 350,000 girls playing soccer in Canada, compared with just 30,000 in perennial contender Japan.

This game is just a friendly but it will give both national teams another chance to see how they stack up against a top-tier opponent prior to next year's Women's World Cup.

And while Canada won't be playing there, the U.S. team might end up playing in Winnipeg, one of the venues for the 2015 event also being held in Vancouver, Edmonton, Ottawa, Montreal and Moncton.

With files from The Canadian Press