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Official: Toronto to host first three Canadian WC home games

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The Canadian Soccer Association is doing the right thing by centralizing the first three World Cup qualifiers in Toronto.

The CSA announced Monday that the three upcoming group stage matches, Sept. 2 against St. Lucia, Oct. 11 against Puerto Rico and Nov. 15 against St. Kitts and Nevis, will all be hosted at BMO Field.

Surely, after the last two friendlies the men played in Toronto — home to Peru last year and against Ecuador before the Gold Cup — those outside of the GTA will argue that, with partisan crowds cheering for the away team alongside swaths of empty seats, Toronto is losing its lustre as the home of the national team.

And there is time for that debate down the road, especially in the run-up to the Women’s World Cup, of which Toronto isn’t a part. But federal government money went to help build BMO Field — money that was earmarked to make the venue a national stadium.

Basically, at this stage, it’s not the time to have the argument about where the Canadian national team should be playing. Stade Saputo in Montreal will be undergoing renovations when these games are being played. If you wanted to play these three games on the artificial turf at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium, you’d have to stickhandle through the CFL schedules and be able to provide a playing surface that didn’t have Canadian football lines (FIFA doesn’t allow for them). And, BC Place won’t be ready till the end of September, making it impossible to host three games there.

And, having the games in one city does make sense. While the Canadian Soccer Association won’t release ticket info until later this week, there are strong indications from the CSA there will be multi-game ticket packages available.

Even though the three games are World Cup qualifiers, Puerto Rico, St. Kitts and Nevis and St. Lucia don’t make for the, ahem, sexiest of opponents. So, by being able to bundle tickets, the CSA can up the appeal by selling all three games as one.

But, as Canada gets closer to hosting the Women’s World Cup, logic would dictate that important Canadian national-team games in the coming years will shift to Vancouver, Edmonton, Montreal and Ottawa — after a new venue is complete in 2014. Those cities will need to ramp up for the tournament and hype will need to be created around Canadian soccer.

So, while Toronto gets the games now, it may not be so fortunate down the road.

2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Qualifiers CONCACAF / Round 2
Friday 2 September : Canada v St. Lucia (Toronto, Ont.)
Tuesday 6 September : Puerto Rico v Canada
Friday 7 October : St. Lucia v Canada
Tuesday 11 October : Canada v Puerto Rico (Toronto, Ont.)
Friday 11 November : St. Kitts and Nevis v Canada
Tuesday 15 November : Canada v St. Kitts and Nevis (Toronto, Ont.)

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