World football body Fifa has completed formal stadium inspections across New Zealand, expressing confidence in next year's hosting of the Under-20 World Cup.
Completing a two-week tour of the country's facilities, Fifa officials say they have checked over the seven host city stadiums, training venues and hotels to assess readiness to host the world's best young footballers.
Head of the Under-20 World Cup, Marion Mayer-Vorfelder, will oversee her fifth edition of Fifa's third-largest event next year in New Zealand.
Mayer-Vorfelder said her team had been "hugely impressed" with facilities across the country as well as the commitment and enthusiasm shown by host cities and football federations.
"The key to the success of hosting such a globally significant tournament is collaboration with partners. Having met the team responsible for staging this festival of football, we feel hugely confident that the event is in very safe hands in New Zealand," Mayer-Vorfelder said.
"I was fortunate enough to see Lionel Messi play at this tournament only in 2005, and it is this calibre of player which fans in New Zealand will get to see live in 2015. Already I can feel the anticipation building across the country."
Also announced yesterday were details around ticket sales, which will open on April 28 - nine months before the group draw is made.
Head of the local organising committee, Dave Beeche, said his group have consulted the domestic football community in an attempt to appropriately structure the ticketing plan.
"Within the football community this tournament is seen as the must-see event in 2015, they realise that this may be their only opportunity to see the next Messi or Maradona live in their backyard," Beeche said.
"Our main ambition for this tournament is to fill the stadiums with people, noise, colour and passion in celebration of the world's biggest global game coming to these shores. We wanted to ensure that price would not be a barrier for Kiwis to say 'I was there' when the next global footballing superstar was discovered.
"One of the ways to do this was to reduce the price for fans to see as many games at their venue as possible, with venue packs including all group matches and the round of 16 knock out games across the seven venues."
The tournament starts on May 30, 2015, with the final June 20. Matches will be played across seven host cities of Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Hamilton, New Plymouth, Wellington and Whangarei.
Christchurch and Auckland will host the two semifinals, with the showcase final at Auckland's North Harbour stadium.
The final draw for the tournament will be televised live at the end of January, 2015.
More than 10.000 international visitors are expected to travel to New Zealand for the event.
- Fairfax Media
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