Vancouver to host 2015 Women's World Cup gold medal game

Vancouver's B.C. Place Stadium will play host to the gold-medal game of the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup, it was announced Thursday.
Stephen Reed addresses the media at Thursday's press conference. ((CBC News))

B.C. Place Stadium will host the first-ever World Cup soccer final on artificial turf in 2015.

The Vancouver venue was named Thursday as the site for the 2015 Women's World Cup championship game. All other senior women's and men's finals have been played on grass, say organizers.

"There's a lot of factors that go into [choosing the final venue]," said Steve Reed, a national organizing committee member following a news conference across the street from the stadium, which seats approximately 55,000.

"The final match, certainly, we wanted to maximize the number of participants, the number of people that are in the seats. B.C. Place obviously has that capacity."

Canadian organizers and FIFA, the sport's world governing body, made the decision on the final venue jointly. Reed looked forward to building on the success of the soldout 2012 CONCACAF women's Olympic qualifying tournament that was held at B.C. Place.

He said the stadium's new retractable roof, which was installed after the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, and upgraded suites and seats which meet FIFA standards also appealed to the governing body.

All games during the CONCACAF tournament in January 2012 were sold out as only lower-bowl seats were open. During the World Cup, all seats will be available.

"We've got good facilities across Canada," said Reed. "But, I think, at the end of the day, FIFA looked at B.C. Place and determined that that was obviously the best [place] for them."

Montreal and Edmonton will host semifinal games in the tournament that runs June 6 to July 5 in six Canadian cities.

"Vancouver for the final was part of trying to reach our goal of 1.5 million ticket sales," said Sandra Gage, the event's chief marketing officer. "There are really three venues of the six host cities that are capable of reaching that number for us because of their capacities, so [they] would be Montreal, Edmonton and Vancouver.

"And, really, Vancouver is probably the newest stadium in Canada right now [of the host venues], with its refurbishment. So we felt that it was the appropriate place to [host] the final."

Artificial turf frowned upon

FIFA has frowned on using artificial turf in major men's events and professional leagues, because of concerns about a greater risk of injury. But Gage said the use of artificial turf has not been an issue in the women's game.

The Canadians, seeded No. 1 in the A pool, will open group play with two games in Edmonton and then move to Montreal for their next contest. Other nations will have similar schedules of two home and one away game in their first three contests.

"That is done with travel times, distance, time zones to ensure that [the schedule] is fair across the teams," said Gage.

In total, 52 matches will be played over 30 days with games also scheduled for Winnipeg, Ottawa and Moncton.

"Each of the groups will have a No. 1 seed in them, so all of the markets will have a No. 1 seed playing in them at least two times," said Gage.

Even if Canada does not reach the final, Vancouver fans will still get to see captain Christine Sinclair and company in action.

"Actually, if you look at the way the schedule is now, if Canada were to finish first in their pool, they would actually play a round of 16 and a quarter-final game here in Vancouver," said Gage. "If they do not [finish first], the quarter-final would be in Ottawa."

The schedule was unveiled during news conferences in Vancouver and Edmonton.

Vancouver Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi said the selection of Vancouver as the final venue was a testament to the support displayed for the 2012 CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament.

"The venue is as good as you get anywhere in the world," said Lenarduzzi. "The province is one of the most beautiful places to visit. So to be hosting the world in July of 2015 is a very exciting prospect."

The Vancouver final, he added, will raise interest in his MLS club and "continue to move the game forward" in B.C. and across the country.

"There's no doubt in my mind that the legacy of that will be more young girls wanting to play the sport of soccer," said Lenarduzzi.

The World Cup draw will be held at a yet-to-be-named Canadian location after all qualifying games are complete in November 2014.