Soccer fever hits Canada in a big way

The Under-20 World Cup begins Saturday as 24 teams, including the USA, compete in six Canadian cities, and ticket sales have stunned organizers.

More than 750,000 tickets have been sold, and final attendance figures could surpass 1 million, double original estimates. Canada's opening game on Sunday and the final on June 22, both in Toronto, are already sold out. The USA opener on Saturday against South Korea could sell out the 55,000 Olympic Stadium in Montreal -- the main venue for the 1976 Olympic Games. Five of the six opening doubleheaders could be sellouts.

Toronto's BMO Field, built specifically for the Under-20 World Cup, is also the home of MLS's Toronto FC, a smash hit at the gate.

"We've changed the sporting landscape in this country," Peter Montopoli, the U-20 World Cup's national event director, told the Vancouver Sun. "Hockey is in the rightful place it should be in this country in the winter. Now soccer will be in the place it should be in the summer. We have two [major] sports now."

Games will also be played in Ottawa, Edmonton, Victoria and the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby. Ottawa's 26,000-seat Frank Clair Stadium is approaching a sellout for the USA-Brazil game on July 6.

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