FIFA have been in the news lately. You've probably heard about how Sepp Blatter won re-election and how many of FIFA's current and former top officials were arrested in Zürich. You may have even seen John Oliver's masterful demolition of FIFA. Seriously, go watch that right now. I'll wait. Done? Okay. Why are FIFA so important, you may ask? Well, they put on the greatest spectacle in all of sports: the World Cup.
The Women's World Cup, normally held the year following the Men's World Cup, is being held in The Great White North this year. Beginning this Saturday, the month-long tournament will draw the attention of millions, if not billions, of eyes from all around the world. The world's best teams have traveled to Canada and will compete in fierce competition on a stage that most women's football players can only dream of.
You may remember the fervent watch parties from around the United States last summer as the USMNT (US Men's National Team) advanced past their "Group of Death" and finally, finally beat Ghana. As a lifelong fan of the Beautiful Game, I couldn't believe the passion my fellow Americans exhibited for the sports I have loved for so long. This summer, the United States can renew that fever for soccer. What's more, the United States have an excellent chance to win the whole thing.
As a refresher for those of you who may have forgotten, the World Cup is a tournament that begins with the Group Stage and advances into the knockout rounds. Twenty four teams are divided into six groups. Every team plays each other once and the top two teams advancing automatically to the knockout stage. Four of the third place teams from the Group Stage will also advance. Advancement is determined by points: three for a win, one for a draw, and none for a loss.
Six stadiums and cities across the vast expanses of Canada will play host to the games of the 2015 WWC. Toronto, an ideal host city (they are the home of MLS' Toronto FC), declined to bid because they are hosting the 2015 Pan American Games during the Cup.
The biggest controversy with these stadiums is that they will contain turf pitches. Playing on turf rather than real grass is unheard of at this level of competition and is, quite frankly, unacceptable. Turf is horrendously difficult on the players' skin and plays completely differently than real grass. Many US players came out publicly against the turf fields in the run up to the Cup.
Vancouver - BC Place
The 54,500 seat stadium will play host to the final match on 5. July, as well as other games throughout the tournament. Home to the Vancouver Whitecaps, this community is wildly passionate about football and should pack the stadium regularly.
Edmonton - Commonwealth Stadium
The residence of the CFL's Edmonton Eskimos, Commonwealth Stadium is the second-largest in the Cup, seating 56,305 people. Edmonton will also play host to the opening match between Canada and China this Saturday at 16:00, Texas time.
Montreal - Olympic Stadium
Seating 61,004 (those four people are very important), the Olympic Stadium is the largest stadium in Canada. Home to the Impact de Montréal, this community is also known for its love of the sport.
Winnipeg - Winnipeg Stadium (33,442 - expandable to 40,000)
Ottawa - Landsdowne Stadium (24,000 - expandable to 40,000)
Moncton - Moncton Stadium (10,000 - expandable to 21,000+)
The current top five countries in the FIFA Women's Rankings are: Germany, United States, France, Japan, and Sweden. All five of these countries should compete for the title. Other teams to look out for are: Canada (of course) and Brazil. I'll have more on these teams in the individual group previews in the coming days.
So, get your work for the month done this week because it's almost time for football.