It will be the biggest single-sport event in Canadian history. Whenever you hear the words "World Cup", you know it's big.
The FIFA U-20 World Cup is the second biggest competition FIFA (the soccer world's governing body) showcases. The only bigger competition is, of course, the FIFA World Cup, which was held last summer in Germany.
In this year's U-20 men's youth World Cup, players under the age of 20, representing 24 countries, will do battle over 52 games in six Canadian cities starting this Saturday until July 22. The cities include Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Victoria, Burnaby, and Edmonton.
The FIFA U-20 World Cup is run every two years. With a recent history of being hosted by relatively obscure soccer nations like the United Arab Emirates in 2003, Malaysia in 1997, and Qatar in 1995, FIFA tries to ensure soccer's alive and well all over the world. For a country like Canada, to host such an event is truly a chance of a lifetime.
Knowledgeable soccer fans know that they have a chance to see the beautiful game's future greats in their own backyard. The FIFA U-20 World Cup has seen the talents of Diego Maradona, Ronaldinho, Luis Figo, and, just two years ago, Argentina's Lionel Messi who is now a world-class superstar with Barcelona.
The U-20 World Cup tournament functions as follows: Six groups of four teams begin in a round-robin format. The top two teams in each group along with the four best third place teams make it to the round of 16. After that, a single-elimination knock-out format determines the winner. The final will be played in Toronto at BMO Field on July 22.
Argentina is the defending champion and has been very successful in the U-20 World Cup, winning in 2005, 2001, 1997, and 1995. Fans in Ottawa will have the good fortune to catch their round-robin games.
Brazil needs no introduction. Winning the South American U-20 championship over Argentina, Brazil has been placed in a group with Poland, South Korea, and the U.S.
As hosts, Canada automatically qualified and are the top seeded team in Group A. Canada will play its round-robin games in Toronto and Edmonton. The U.S. will play its round-robin games in Montreal and Ottawa.
Nigeria reached the final of the 2005 U-20 championship (losing to Argentina 2–1) and is joined by fellow African teams Zambia, Gambia, and Congo.
Much talk about this tournament centers around the future stars of the game. Some players to watch include Mexico's Giovanni Dos Santos (who gets personal advice from Lionel Messi at Barcelona), Brazil's Alexandre Pato, and American Freddy Adu, who is back for his third U-20 World Cup.
The action begins this Saturday in Montreal and Ottawa. On Sunday, Canada Day, action on the West coast kicks off in Victoria and Burnaby. Appropriately enough, Canada takes the field on its 140th birthday in Toronto against Chile.
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|Chile||Uruguay||New Zealand||Brazil||Czech Republic||Scotland|
|Congo||Jordan||Gambia||Korea Republic||Korea DPR||Nigeria|
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