The World Cup is Coming to Canada!
Taylor Maxston (2L)
The tension could be cut with a knife as the FIFA Congress in Moscow was slated to announce who would host the 2026 World Cup. One of the strongest contenders was the “United Bid,” comprised of the United States, Canada, and Mexico. In what ended up being a brilliant strategy, the joint bid called for the United States to host 60 games (which would include the matches from the quarter-finals all the way through to the final), with Canada and Mexico each hosting 10 games. In a declaration that drew thundering applause and cheers, FIFA Congress announced in June that the United Bid had earned the right to co-host the World Cup.
Although the lone competing bid from the North African country of Morocco was certainly enticing, the United Bid had the edge in one key area: supporting infrastructure. It likely would have required tens of billions of dollars in spending on constructing whole new stadiums and related amenities for the World Cup to come to Morocco, whereas the United Bid will allow for event organizers to allocate costs in other areas because of their abundance of stadiums already in place. FIFA bid assessors were certainly cognizant of the Arena Amazonia controversy where Brazil had constructed a 44,000-seat stadium in the remote Amazonian city of Manaus for the 2014 World Cup. Although around $260 million was spent on the four-year project, it currently sits mostly unused with its operating costs acting as a huge burden on the local economy.
One obvious question that comes with the United Bid’s success is whether the Canadian men’s team would automatically qualify for the competition. It’s no secret that the Canadian men, currently ranked 79th in the world, haven’t exactly established themselves as an elite club. They have qualified for a World Cup just once back in 1986, where they promptly exited the tournament without scoring a goal. That being said, it is tradition for the host nation of the World Cup to automatically qualify without having to play through the preliminary matches that most countries would be required to go through. Only time will tell whether the Canadian men’s team will get the benefit of this historic custom, though one thing is certain: Canada is no stranger to rousing support for its soccer teams. One only need look back to 2002 when Canada hosted the FIFA U-19 Women’s World Cup and drew close to 50,000 fans to Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium for the final.
A separate vote by the FIFA Council will now be required to determine the host cities for the World Cup from each country in the United Bid. The Council will choose 16 cities from a list of 23 candidates across all three countries, with Edmonton, Toronto, and Montreal being the Canadian locales. Should Edmonton be named as one of those host cities, fans in the area should be planning well in advance to come out and contribute to the buzz of professional soccer in Canada!