Editor's Note: Welcome Avry Lewis-McDougall to the Waking the Red team. Avry will serve as the site's Edmonton correspondent for the tournament. You can catch more from him at his site AvrySports.Com.
Commonwealth Stadium. One of the of most iconic stadiums in Canadian sports and come this Saturday it is going to be absolutely rocking with over 50,000 fans for the first game of the Women's World Cup between Canada and China in Edmonton.
Tickets for the tournament have been the hottest sports item of the summer with prime seats going well before the opening game.
This is a city that has always embraced the various national teams coming out in waves over the decades for senior team friendlies, Men's and Women's U-20 tournaments with the inaugural one for women in 2002 (originally an under 19 tournament). It was one of the first times that the entire nation had the opportunity to watch players who would become soccer icons in this country such as Kara Lang, Erin McLeod and Christine Sinclair.
The opening match will be the largest attended national team match of any sport in Canada. Let that sink in. Really, try to absorb what is about to go down on Saturday considering the fact that top flight sports have been played in this nation since the 19th Century. You the dear reader, will be witnessing history either at the match or by watching it on TV.
Soccer in this city is also incredibly stable at the domestic level.
FC Edmonton has been a team that over the years since entering the new NASL in 2011 have struggled to climb up the league table but have developed one of the most charismatic fan bases at their home pitch in the form of the Section 107 Supporters. Players like Daryl Fordyce and Eddie Edwards have been treated like folk heroes and have been led by former Canadian senior team captain Colin Miller who's a coach that's been the right fit for this club since he was hired in 2012. T
heir Amway Canadian Championship performances though on the pitch have been a delight to see, as their near win over the Vancouver Whitecaps in in the semi final this year showed that the Eddies are a team has no quit but also that the gap between MLS and NASL is closing at a very rapid rate.
There's no more wondering how long it will be before the local team or the league will fold which has been the case of the years with many soccer teams in this city. Such was the Edmonton Drillers of both the original NASL and NPSL as well as the Edmonton Aviators that played in 2004 with both men's and women's teams to nightmarishly low crowds.
In the end the A-League would end up buying the men's team and renaming Edmonton FC as they limped to a last place finish with a record of 4-18-6 while the women actually put up a winning record with a mark of 7-5-2 in the W-League but would miss the playoffs. Both teams would drift off into the soccer abyss for failed franchises after their lone campaigns.
At the University level the game is thriving as the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology's women's team took home the silver medal at the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association national tournament last October. The men's team won the Alberta title (Alberta Colleges Athletics Conference) to advance to the national tournament where they would finish 4th and the University of Alberta Golden Bears made it to the CIS National Championships while the Pandas made it to Canada West final four.
Hundreds of kids are also registered to play minor soccer in the city and the Alberta Major Soccer League kicked off it's 23rd season earlier this year. The sport is alive and kicking.
On Saturday, hundreds of fans will march to Commonwealth Stadium to kick of this tournament, scratch that, it could be a few thousands who will be walking loudly and proudly to make Canadian soccer history this weekend. The national soccer stadium may officially be in Toronto with BMO Field on 170 Princess Boulevard but this weekend it's address will be at 11000 Stadium Road a few provinces west.