Many eyes in the sporting world will be on France at noon on Friday, June 7, as the host country faces South Korea in the first game of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Yes, the NBA Finals and Stanley Cup Final will still be unfolding, but on the world stage, soccer takes precedence, regardless of the gender of participants.
More than three quarters of a billion viewers tuned in at some point during the 2015 tournament held in Canada, eclipsing ratings for NHL and NBA playoffs. The final between the USA and Japan was the most watched soccer match in US history, for men or women. Americans realize how good their team is. Canadians need to know their team is a contender, too, and well worth watching when it opens the tournament on Monday, June 10, against Cameroon.
USA and France are the favourites in the 24-team field. Canada, ranked fifth in the world and sporting an unbeaten record in 2019, is in a better position than ever. Its roster is chalk full of young and emerging talent, and includes the game’s greatest scorer among current players, who happens to be only four goals away from setting the all-time record for international goals by a man or woman. The opportunity to watch Christine Sinclair chase down that record, as well as World Cup glory for her country, is reason enough to watch.
However, Sinclair is no longer alone. After years of carrying the offensive load for her country, younger players such as Janine Beckie, Ashley Lawrence, Jessie Fleming and Jordyn Huitema are emerging as stars, or at least stars in waiting. The 2019 World Cup is Sinclair’s fifth. At age 35, it may be her swan song, but for young members of the squad, this tournament could be a coming out party and their own opportunity to become a household name.
If someone in your home does not know who Sinclair is, please inform him or her that she is one of Canada’s all-time greats, in any sport.
Canada’s roster features a mix of players who play professionally in Europe and North America, as well as a few developing in the college ranks. While women in the sport do not currently have the same earning potential as their counterparts in professional tennis and golf, a career in the soccer is achievable.
At age 18, Huitema recently sign a four-year contract with Paris Saint-Germain, joining Lawrence, 23, on the French club team. Beckie, 24, plays for Manchester City in the FA Women’s Super League (England). These players watched and trained with Sinclair, who inspired them to seek careers in the sport. These young players now have a chance to do the same for the next generation. What better place than on the world stage.
Will you be watching?
Shane Carlson is editor at Powell River Peak.