Yes, Big Red will play its "sendoff" match against England at Hamilton's Tim Hortons Field on Friday, May 29. Thirteen days later, the team opens up the World Cup group stage at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium against China.
It's a good date and a good opponent. It's what head coach John Herdman would call a "Tier II" team -- which is the same group Canada falls into, if folks are being honest with themselves. England just beat Canada 1-0 in the Cyprus Cup final (more on that in a moment) and is the sort of opponent Canada needs to (and can realistically be expected to) overcome if we have any ambitions of reaching the World Cup podium.
And it is, I'm sure, a good venue. I'm sure the good people of Hamilton and the surrounding area will provide a great environment for the game and give the players plenty of warm and fuzzy feelings as they head into the grand showcase.
But given that Canada hasn't played in Ottawa or Montreal (which are, of course, two World Cup host cities) anytime in recent memory, and Herdman et. al. have said they wanted to prepare the team for venues they are or could be playing in, and Canada is definitely playing a group-stage match in Montreal... again, nothing against Hamilton, but, why?
The Hamilton Spectator, which broke the story on Monday, made repeated mention of the Pan Am Games, so there's the possibility that the Pan Am organizers are hoping this game will serve as a test run of the new stadium, ahead of the Pan Am soccer tournament being played there.
But the Pan Am Games are ostensibly the reason that Toronto was ineligible to serve as a Women's World Cup host, despite the CSA wanting the country's largest city to be part of the tournament. So why on earth would the CSA be doing the Pan Am organizers any favours?
Another theory, floated by several folks on Monday evening, is that the stadium is being given an audition of sorts, in an attempt to bolster Hamilton's chances of landing an NASL franchise. Bob Young, owner of the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats (the main tenant of Tim Hortons Field) has -- for years -- been said to be itching to bring a pro soccer team to the Hammer.
Could this have something to do with the choice of venue for this game? Or is this just a matter of Canadian soccer superfans assuming sinister conspiracies behind every decision the CSA makes? The truth, as usual, likely falls somewhere in the middle.
But regardless of where the game is being played, it'll be our final chance to see the team in action before the games really, really matter.
Canada fell short of winning the Cyprus Cup earlier this month, though that's -- as I said repeatedly on social media -- irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. Yes, winning games and winning trophies is always nice. But in a World Cup year, the purpose of the Cyprus Cup is not to win the Cyprus Cup. The purpose of the Cyprus Cup is to get your players up to full match fitness and to work on some final tweaks ahead of the big games.
The two significant takeaways from that tournament are that Christine Sinclair thankfully seems to be back on goal-scoring track (just in the nick of time), and that newcomers Jessie Fleming and Allysha Chapman (both of whom scored their first-ever goals for the senior national team) appear to be integrating into Herdman's setup. That latter point will be especially important if one or both of Diana Matheson and Lauren Sesselmann are unable to play, as their recoveries from knee injuries continue.
So what's the main goal of the friendly against England?
Getting a win to get some pre-World Cup momentum? Well, we had all sorts of "momentum" after a hot streak heading into the last Women's World Cup, and ended up finishing in dead last?
Giving a crowd-pleasing performance, so that those in attendance will rush out to buy Women's World Cup tickets? Hmm, well, again, pleasing your home crowd is always a good thing, but given that the nearest World Cup venue to Hamilton is a six-hour drive, that's probably not the most effective strategy to move tickets.
Play a complete 90-minute game where no one gets hurt and Herdman can substantively evaluate which tactics and approaches he's going to bring into Canada's three group-stage matches?
Now, all of that being said, of course I encourage everyone in southern Ontario to head out on a Friday night to a new stadium and give our women's national team a raucous sendoff ahead of playing the World Cup right here at home. Though if you're reading this site, it's doubtful that you need me to convince you of the merits of such an activity.
Maybe they'll win, maybe they won't. But if at the end of the game, all of the players are upright and have smiles on their faces as they soak up the adulation, then it's a job well done for everyone.