ALSO ON SLAM!
Wednesday, June 7, 2000
Qualifiers Varsity bound
While an official announcement will be made only when and if Canada eliminates Cuba, it appears that World Cup soccer qualifying will return to Varsity Stadium this year.
Should Canada do the expected and get by the Cubans in a World Cup qualifying playoff Sunday in Winnipeg, the team would advance to the semi-final round in the Football Confederation, which covers North and Central America and the Caribbean. Canada beat Cuba 1-0 at Havana on Sunday in the first leg of the home-and-home series.
Canada's first semi-final game would be July 16 against Trinidad and Tobago at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium. However, the Commonwealth pitch will be torn out after that game to prepare for the 2001 world track and field championships.
That leaves the 10,000-seat Winnipeg Soccer Complex and 9,000-seat Varsity as the only soccer stadiums in Canada big enough to play host to a World Cup qualifier.
Canada also has home games scheduled Oct. 9 against Panama and Nov. 14 or 15 against Mexico, although sites have yet to be chosen by the Canadian Soccer Association. A source said Winnipeg could play host to the October qualifier, but the CSA does not want to take a chance playing in Winnipeg in November. That leaves Varsity as the only alternative.
The decision to play such an important game at Varsity is an about-face for the CSA. It vowed in 1993 to never return there for a World Cup qualifier after Canada lost 2-1 to Mexico in front of 20,000 pro-Mexican fans.
But an exhibition game two weeks ago between Canada and Trinidad in which close to 9,000 mostly Canadian supporters cheered Canada to a 1-0 win apparently was enough to persuade officials to return to Toronto.