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VANCOUVER (Reuters) - A sea of red, white and blue is expected to flood Vancouver in the coming days as thousands of Americans flock to the city to cheer on their squad against defending champions Japan in Sunday's Women's World Cup final.
The Americans have enjoyed a home-crowd feel throughout the month-long tournament in Canada and can expect more of the same with the game, a rematch of the 2011 World Cup final they lost, being played about 34 miles from the U.S. border.
"The Americans are coming up in droves," said Michelle Collens, manager of sport hosting for the City of Vancouver. "Whether they have tickets already or hope to find some when they get here, they are coming."
The final sold out months ago and tickets have become a hot commodity since the United States beat top-ranked Germany in the semis earlier this week. Online classified ad site Craigslist has tickets ranging from C$100 for a single pass to C$5,400 for two lower level tickets at center field.
Fans without tickets are expected to pack downtown sports bars and restaurants, or the FIFA Fan Zone, where the game will be broadcast on giant screens. That adds up to big gains for local businesses, who stand to benefit to the tune of C$36.7 million over the course of the tournament.
At Jimmy's Tap House, a 130-seat pub where pennants for all 24 participating teams decorate the balcony railings, general manager Jody Antone is bracing for a hectic weekend.
"We've been completely packed in here for almost every game the U.S. has played so far," he said. "There's a lot of American fans here."
"I'm pretty sure our sales will be comparable to when the Canucks went to the Stanley Cup," Antone added with a laugh, referring to when Vancouver's National Hockey League team reached the championship series in 2011.
Hotels in downtown Vancouver are also benefiting as occupancy was above 90 percent in downtown Vancouver for the month of June, according to Tourism Vancouver.
At the Westin Grand, located a few blocks from the BC Place Stadium where the final will be played, every room was booked months in advance, said Vanessa Idler, the hotel's director of rooms.
"It's been great," said Idler of hosting fans from around the world during the event. "The street out front is packed with fans every game and the energy is just infectious."
Editing by Frank Pingue