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The Globe and Mail

BC Place to host Olympic soccer qualifier

Candance Marie-Chapman of Canada during the CONCACAF Women's World Cup qualifying tournament soccer match at the Beto Avila stadium in Cancun October 31, 2010.

Henry Romero/ Reuters/Henry Romero/ Reuters

West Coast soccer fans are in for a surprise treat come January, as the city's revamped stadium with a retractable roof will play host to a key Olympic qualifying round for women's soccer.

Eight teams from North and Central America and the Caribbean will battle for two spots at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, including Canada's top-flight team, currently ranked sixth in the world.

The tournament, which is likely to feature a grudge match at some point between Canada and top-ranked, arch-rival United States, is a feather in the cap for the controversial BC Place Stadium at a time of year when little sports activity would be expected.

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However, the stadium's expensive retractable roof - costing, along with renovations, more than $450-million - will shelter players from the vagaries of Vancouver's January weather.

The revamped, previously-domed facility is scheduled to open Sept. 30 with a BC Lions game, while the Grey Cup is to take place there in late November.

BC Place, with a capacity of about 55,000, also hopes to host a number of games in the 2015 Women's World Cup hosted by Canada, including, possibly, the tournament final.

The pre-Olympic qualifying tournament involves teams from the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association (CONCACAF).

"This international tournament will provide a superb opportunity for British Columbians to support our summer athletes," B.C. Community, Sport and Cultural Development Minister Ida Chong said Tuesday in a statement.

The province is providing $250,000 to help stage the event.

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