Seven cities nation-wide have been selected to host matches in the FIFA U-20 World Cup when the high profile football tournament is staged in New Zealand during the winter of 2015.
With just under two years until the big kick off, organisers have confirmed that Whangarei, Auckland, Hamilton, New Plymouth and Wellington in the North Island and Christchurch and Dunedin in the South Island, will all host games.
Providing a wide geographical spread around New Zealand was a key part of the selection process as the New Zealand Football Local Organising Committee (LOC) wanted to enable as much of the country to experience the tournament as possible.
The FIFA U-20 World Cup is the second most important FIFA tournament behind the FIFA men’s World Cup which remains the biggest sporting event in the world and is expected to showcase the beautiful game in a way never before seen in New Zealand.
Dave Beeche, CEO of the LOC for FIFA U-20 World Cup 2015 says having seven "stunning" venues locked in nearly two years out from the first match gave a great planning timeframe and organisers would use all of it to ensure they delivered a standout event.
"With the world’s best footballing talent on display and stadiums full of colour, noise, and atmosphere it will be a new experience for New Zealand that everyone will want to be a part of."
The tournament will run for three weeks from 30 May to 21 June and 24 national teams will be hosted, playing 52 matches throughout New Zealand. Some of the world’s top football stars will attend the tournament and more than 7,000 fans are expected to arrive in the country to support their teams.
Nations likely to play include Brazil, Argentina, Spain, Germany, England, The Netherlands, Japan and Italy.
The chance to experience New Zealand
Auckland will host the opening match as well as a selection of pool matches, a quarter-final, a semi-final, 3rd/4th play-off and the final.
All of the nine matches to be played in Auckland will be played at North Harbour Stadium on the city’s North Shore - home of New Zealand Football.
Within half-an-hour of downtown Auckland, visitors can relax on an island in the Hauraki Gulf, trek through native rainforest, sample wines at a local vineyard or walk along a wild, black sand surf beach.
Christchurch will also play a significant role in the tournament hosting nine matches including six pool matches, a Round of 16 clash, a quarter-final, and the other semi-final. All of the Christchurch matches will be played at AMI Stadium.
Christchurch, in the Canterbury region is the South Island’s largest city (pop: 350,000), is a ‘garden city’ of over 700 parks. Canterbury’s landscape is dominated by New Zealand’s highest mountain Aoraki Mt Cook and the Southern Alps - a chain of mountains that’s bigger than its European namesake.
In the air, on water or in the mountains, Canterbury is an adventure and nature haven of unique outdoor experiences - huge sperm whales cruising the Kaikoura coast, dolphins playing in Akaroa harbour, and cheeky alpine parrots entertaining tourists at Arthur’s Pass.
Wellington, New Zealand’s capital, has a proven love of football and sizeable fan base which organisers say was a key factor in awarding nine matches to the city.
Altogether six pool matches, a Round of 16 double-header, and a quarter-final will be played at Westpac Stadium in the city centre.
Wellington, built on the edge of a deep harbour and steep surrounding hills, is New Zealand's 'creative capital'.
The city is home to the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and the Royal New Zealand Ballet, and national treasures such as the original Treaty of Waitangi - New Zealand’s founding document.
Nature and wildlife experiences are a major draw-card for the Wellington region. Zealandia, only minutes from the central city, is a sanctuary for endangered native birds and other New Zealand wildlife.
Hamilton in the Waikato region of the North Island will host eight matches including a full pool of six matches, a Round of 16 match and a quarter-final. All of the Hamilton matches will be played at Waikato Stadium.
Hamilton en route between Auckland and Rotorua, is New Zealand’s fourth largest urban area.
The Waikato Region is well known for tourism attraction Hobbiton Movie Set, created for Sir Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Trilogies.
Waikato’s Waitomo Caves is a unique subterranean adventure playground for easy walking cave tours, abseiling, rock climbing and black water rafting thrills. New Zealand’s highest cave abseil descends 100 metres into the ‘Lost World’.
Dunedin, in the South Island, will provide the only covered stadium for the tournament. The Forsyth Barr Stadium, built for the 2011 RWC, will host seven matches including a Round of 16 match. A FIFA inspection team said the roof was a major benefit given the winter timing of the tournament.
Dunedin, one of New Zealand’s oldest and most important settler cities, has a strong Scottish heritage. It is the doorway to the Otago Peninsula and the Southern Scenic Route along the south eastern coast.
Otago Peninsula - with an albatross colony at Taiaroa Head, and populations of rare yellow-eyed penguins and fur seals - is a hub for sustainability and nature-based activities.
New Plymouth in Taranaki on the west coast of the central North Island also impressed the FIFA group with their strong provincial sporting and events pedigree.
Six games will be played at Yarrow Stadium made up of five pool matches and a Round of 16 clash.
Taranaki has a contrasting landscape from Mount Taranaki to some of New Zealand’s best surf beaches. The region has a number of easily accessible outdoor activities ranging from stunning gardens, to alpine and surf adventures to major arts and cultural events.
Whangarei in the far north of the North Island rounds out the list of host cities and ensures a solid geographical spread for the tournament.
Four matches will be played at Toll Stadium including three pool matches and a Round of 16 match up, ensuring that all host cities get to see sensational football.
Northland, is the birthplace of the nation and a region rich in history and culture.
Here, the modern New Zealand nation was founded when Māori and Europeans came together to sign the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840.
Northland’s sub-tropical climate and proximity to the sea means the region also produces abundant citrus fruit and many kinds of fresh seafood.
Northland has an array of activities from swimming with dolphins, to walking through ancient forest to see some of the oldest and largest living Kauri trees including the famed Tane Mahuta ‘Lord of the Forest’.
Major sporting events
The FIFA U-20 Football World Cup will continue to showcase the country as a destination to host international sporting events.
The tournament will be broadcast to over 100 countries with a global television audience of around 170 million people.
New Zealand will also host the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2015 adding to the list of major sporting tournaments held in the country in recent years.
The Rugby World Cup, staged in New Zealand in 2011, was a major success and attracted more than 133,000 visitors. The country became a stadium of "four million hosts" as passionate Kiwis got behind the event and celebrated with a national festival.