(WFI) The United States became the first women’s national team to win three Women’s World Cups July 5 in Vancouver, thanks to a hat trick by Carli Lloyd in the event’s highest scoring final.

From outside BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, the 2015 World Cup decorations come down. (WFI)

Her punt from the halfway line that caught Japan goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori by surprise was a highlight of the 5-2 win. After a four-goal flurry in the first 16 minutes, the game was never in doubt. The U.S. got revenge for the 2011 World Cup final loss to Japan on penalty kicks.

“The Americans were simply too strong,” said Japan coach Norio Sasaki. “In the first few minutes, it seemed as if every shot ended up in the back of the net.”

The U.S. team won a $2 million share of the $15 million prize pool. The crowd of 53,341 included U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, whose guests included Mia Hamm from the 1999 champion U.S. team.

The final was played under less than ideal conditions of 25 Celsius and 50% humidity at kickoff with smoke from inland wildfires noticeable in the stadium, which left the retractable roof open. The record 22.86 million who watched the FOX broadcast in the U.S. didn’t get to see picture postcard images of the final’s host city. It was the most-watched soccer game in U.S. TV history.

United States Soccer Federation hosted an all ages Fan HQ pep rally at the Commodore Ballroom on the eve of the match. For those who arrived in match day and left the next day, there were lineups up to two hours long reported at border crossings.

CTV, TSN and RDS combined for an average 2.1 million audience for the final on Canadian TV, which peaked at 2.8 million. Overall, 7.7 million Canadians watched some or all of the match. The national broadcaster estimated 60% of Canada’s population tuned in to the tournament.

FIFA announced after the match it was the best-attended non-men’s World Cup FIFA tournament with total attendance of 1,353,506 and per match average 26,029. The figures, however, come with an asterisk. FIFA double-counted the 310,000 attendees who enjoyed two matches on a single ticket during the first round. The Canada v. England quarterfinal in Vancouver drew the biggest crowd of 54,027.

Victor Montagliani, the president of the Canadian Soccer Association and chair of the national organizing committee, said it was too early to comment on finances. A report will eventually be published. Canadian taxpayers paid more than $27 million of the NOC’s $90 million budget. The NOC sold only three of its six allotted national sponsorship packages. It had hoped to gain as much as $20 million, but may have brought in only $12 million from Bell, Trend Micro and Anheuser-Busch InBev.

Montagliani said a bid for the 2026 men’s World Cup, the only FIFA tournament Canada has yet to host, will be considered once the procedure is decided.

FOX’s Canada 2015 broadcast set, where the USA team received its 3-star Nike jerseys to represent 3 World Cup championships. (WFI)

USSF CEO Sunil Gulati was complimentary of Canada 2015’s organization but, when asked if a Canadian 2026 bid is viable, he said “competition is always good.”

The closing news conference on July 3 did not include senior FIFA vice-president Issa Hayatou, but instead Lydia Nsekera, the first woman appointed to the executive committee. Nsekera declared Canada 2015 a “roaring success.” The seventh edition of the Women’s World Cup was the first to feature 24 nations.

“It should serve as an inspiration for all member associations,” she said.

FIFA Awards

Carli Lloyd was the Adidas golden ball winner for best technical ranking of the tournament. Lloyd and Germany’s Celia Sasic both recorded six goals and one assist to top the offense table, but Sasic played 77 minutes less to win the golden boot. Hope Solo of the U.S. was chosen the golden glove winner for top goalkeeper.

Canadian defender Kadeisha Buchanan was chosen Hyundai Best Young Player, while France won the Fair Play Trophy.

Big Names

FIFA senior Vice President Issa Hayatou presented the trophy to the champions. President Sepp Blatter remained in Switzerland to avoid the possibility of arrest and potential extradition to the U.S. where authorities are prosecuting 14 current and former FIFA officials and associates for corruption.

Blatter published a tweet congratulating the U.S. on becoming the first three-time champion four hours after the match. His only known Vancouver “appearance” was in a recorded video greeting to open the 6th Women’s Football Symposium at the Hyatt Regency on July 3. The often-gregarious Blatter appeared glum as he read from a script.

FIFA’s special guests included OFC president David Chung and CONCACAF president Alfredo Hawit Banegas, who replaced the arrested and conditionally fired Jeffrey Webb, Canada’s Gov. Gen. David Johnston, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Sport Minister Bal Gosal, host province premiers and sport ministers and host cities’ mayors were invited.

During the match, they dined on a menu of catered Canadian specialties in the VVIP zone, which was renovated for the tournament and had its own dedicated wifi channel.

Turf future

Members of the U.S. women’s team celebrate after the World Cup final (WFI)

FIFA’s technical study group is assessing all aspects of artificial turf used at Canada 2015. Players and coaches will be surveyed. France 2019 will use natural grass. Heat was a major factor at some venues, Women’s Football Head Tatjana Haenni conceded. The opening match in Edmonton saw 50 Celsius at pitch level.

U.S. players, such as Christie Rampone and Sydney Leroux, however, said the tournament should have been played on natural grass.

“Hopefully for the future it never happens again, and we have that equality, because everyone knows that the men never had to play a World Cup on turf,” said Canadian-born forward Sydney Leroux.

“Everyone in this tournament had to play on the same surface, so I don’t think it will take away from this victory at all,” said defender Rampone.

The B.C. Place Polytan LigaTurf was two-star certified just two days before the first group stage match after being installed over two weeks in late May when the stadium had no other bookings. The testing was complicated when balls failed to reach optimum rebounding, so additional sand was steamrolled and blocks of ice applied for hardening. The visible seams were an aesthetic problem not entirely solved.

Neither FIFA, Polytan nor testing agency Sports Labs would disclose the testing report.

The head of the world soccer players’ union said July 3 in Vancouver that women “have to have the same circumstances as men” at World Cups.

“As long as FIFPro exists, which I hope is another 50 years, we will not play [a men’s World Cup] on artificial turf,” said Theo van Seggelen, secretary general of the Netherlands-based union.

The U.S. women’s team greet fans and media after the 2015 World Cup final (WFI)

Van Seggelen admitted FIFPro was late to the game in opposing artificial turf for Canada 2015 and was not confident about winning a legal challenge. Ex-Swedish international Caroline Jonsson, head of women’s football for FIFPro, said the lost battle for grass was a “tipping point.” It led to FIFPro’s Vancouver-launched international membership drive to improve conditions on and off field for women playing professional soccer.

Three Canada 2015 players supporting FIFPro lamented not playing on grass at the tournament.

Spanish midfielder Veronica Boquete said it put players at risk of muscle injuries.

“The game changed totally, the ball bounced differently,” Boquete said. “The movement of the ball, in the feet, everything is just different.”

Said goalkeeper Lydia Williams of Australia: “All us female players want to be seen as professional, so at the end of the day we have to deal with what gets thrown at us and handle the conditions how it is. But it would definitely be nice to play on grass.”

“Would we rather grass? Yes,” Canadian goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc said. “But for us it was more about the opportunity to have a World Cup in our home country.”

FIFA Discipline

The day after the final, FIFA announced a seven-year ban for Harold Mayne-Nicholls, who chaired the committee that evaluated bids for 2018 and 2022. The ex-Chilean Football Association president cannot participate in any national or international football-related activities during his suspension.

The 2018 and 2022 World Cups were awarded in 2010 to Russia and Qatar, respectively.

Reported in Vancouver Bob Mackin

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