Winnipeg - Not long ago, it seemed improbable that a city of fewer than 800,000 people in a flyover area of Canada would be a host city for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
But less than five months from the opening kickoff, Winnipeg is not only hosting seven games, but it’s welcoming four of the top five women’s teams in the world, with two games featuring Team USA.
The matchups in the World Cup finals, held every four years, are determined by a random drawing. The venues for those matchups are also randomly drawn.
Of the six Canadian cities hosting the world’s 24 best women’s soccer teams this June and July, Winnipeg’s draw was among the best.
In an eight-day span from June 8 to June 16, Winnipeg will host games involving No. 1 Germany, No. 2 USA, No. 4 and reigning World Cup champion Japan, and No. 5 Sweden.
Team USA will open the Winnipeg run on June 8 against No. 10 Australia and then four days later plays No. 5 Sweden.
All games will be played at the new Investors Group Field, a $210 million stadium seating 33,422 fans.
There are really only four game dates in Winnipeg – and three of them fall over a five-day period – so it’s a good opportunity for fans of the World Cup or those curious about it to experience it close to home and with relatively little planning or expense.
The first order of business is buying game tickets, and there are some key dates to know.
Up until Feb. 6, your only option is to buy a “stadium passport,” essentially an assigned-seat ticket for all seven Winnipeg games.
This is a great option if you plan to go to most of the games. It’s also shareable, so you essentially own the seat and can give it or sell it to others if you can’t hit one of the game dates.
The highest-priced (and therefore best seats) for the stadium passport are sold out. There are, however, still stadium passports in the $200, $130 and $95 categories, but they’re going fast.
Beginning Feb. 6, individual match-day tickets go on sale to Visa cardholders. Then, on Feb. 26, they go on sale to everyone.
Individual match-day tickets for the three doubleheaders on June 8, June 12 and June 15 are $80, $65, $40 and $30, depending on the seats.
For the singular game on June 16, individual tickets are $65, $50, $30 and $20.15, the last price a marketing gimmick based on the tournament’s year.
Once you have tickets, you’ll need to book a hotel room, and rather early.
And whether you’re driving the four hours north on Interstate 29 or flying, you’ll need a passport, which can take some time to get in hand.
Then again, if you’re curious but not that committed, every game of the month-long tournament will be televised on the Fox Sports networks.
Japan won in 2011, beating Team USA in dramatic fashion. Germany won in 2007 and 2003.
Not since 1999, when Team USA player Brandi Chastain ripped off her jersey following a dramatic shootout victory over China at the Rose Bowl, has the United States won the tournament.
Winnipeg games and dates Monday, June 8 3 p.m.: Sweden vs. Nigeria
6:30 p.m.: USA vs. Australia
Friday, June 12 4 p.m.: Australia vs. Nigeria
7 p.m.: USA v. Sweden
Monday, June 15 3 p.m.: Thailand vs. Germany
6:30 p.m.: China vs. New Zealand
Tuesday, June 16 4 p.m.: Ecuador vs. Japan