June 13, 2018
By Hugo O'Doherty
The world’s biggest sporting event is coming to Canada.
In a momentous decision, 134 out of 201 voting FIFA members cast their ballot for the “United Bid”, with the remainder going to a bid submitted by Morocco. The vote was held in Moscow, just one day before that city itself hosts a World Cup match for the first time as the Russia 2018 tournament kicks off.
While this will be first time that the international men’s marquee event takes place on Canadian soil, it won’t be the first time a FIFA World Cup tournament comes to Canada. The highly successful 2015 Women’s World Cup took place in cities spanning the breadth of the country.
This time, only three Canadian cities – Toronto, Montreal, and Edmonton – are currently positioned to host games, as well as the fans of countries playing in those games. Of the 80 games to be held through the 32-day tournament, 60 will take place in the US, with 10 each in Canada and Mexico. All games from the quarter-finals onward will take place in the US.
“Hosting a FIFA World Cup is an extraordinary honour and privilege,” stated Steven Reed, President of Canada Soccer.
“Canada, Mexico, and the United States are ready to welcome the world to North America and serve as stewards of the largest FIFA World Cup in history. Our vision is of a world of opportunity for our Candidate host cities and for the global football community.”
The host cities
One of the strengths of the United bid was that most of the infrastructure needed to host a tournament of this magnitude is already in place. Potential host cities in all three countries have transport links and plenty of guest accommodation, as well as existing stadia up to or close to FIFA World Cup standards.
Vancouver voluntarily dropped out during the application process, and so it will not host any games. Ottawa and Regina submitted applications, but were not selected.
Population: 5,928,040 (GTA)
Immigrant population: 2,705,550
The venue: By the time 2026 rolls around, BMO Field in in Toronto’s Liberty Village will have a capacity of 45,000. The stadium is home to reigning MLS Cup holders Toronto FC.
What will fans notice about the city? Arriving into Toronto is an awesome experience, in the true sense of the word. The iconic skyline stretches along the shore of Lake Ontario, with the CN Tower a focal point. Visitors in need of some home-style creature comforts should be able to find whatever they need here, as Toronto is one of the most diverse, multicultural cities on the planet.
Where can fans go nearby? Niagara Falls is around a 1.5-hour drive away.
- For all the latest info about life in Toronto, see our Toronto city guide.
Population: 4,098,927 (Greater Montreal)
Immigrant population: 936,305
The venue: The Olympic Stadium was built to host the 1976 summer games, and capacity for the 2026 World Cup may be as high as 73,000. Today, the peculiar-looking structure in the east end of the city is not home to any particular sports team, with the Montreal Expos baseball team having folded in 2004. The Montreal Impact typically plays a couple of games here each year, usually because of the long winter (the stadium will have a retractable roof by 2026). The existing artificial surface will have to be replaced by grass before the likes of Harry Kane and Gabriel Jesus are let loose on it.
What will fans notice about the city? Though most Montrealers can speak English well, and are happy to do so, Montreal is the second-largest predominantly French-speaking city in the world, after Paris.
Where can fans go nearby? In summer, the Laurentian mountains to the north of the city are a perfect playground for those who enjoy the great outdoors, with options for biking, hiking, rock climbing, and more. Alternatively, Canada’s capital city of Ottawa is a two-hour drive away – close enough for a day trip.
- For all the latest info about life in Montreal, see our Montreal city guide.
Population: 1,321,426 (metropolitan area)
Immigrant population: 308,605
The venue: Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium is home to the Edmonton Eskimos, stalwarts of the Canadian Football League (CFL). Its capacity of around 56,000 is perfect for hosting World Cup games.
What will fans notice about the city? Alberta’s capital city showcases an independent spirit, mixing a businesslike culture by day with a festival atmosphere once the sun begins to set, reflected in the nickname “Canada’s Festival City”.
Where can fans go nearby? Jasper National Park is just over three hours to the west. The park includes the glaciers of the Columbia Icefield, hot springs, lakes, waterfalls, and mountains.
- For all the latest info about life in Edmonton, see our Edmonton city guide.
Potential host cities in Mexico include Mexico City, Monterrey, and Guadalajara, while the following US cities remain in the running to host games: Los Angeles, New York City, Washington, D.C., Dallas, Kansas City, Denver, Houston, Baltimore, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Nashville, Seattle, San Francisco / San Jose, Boston, Cincinnati, Miami, and Orlando.
Be there as a resident, not just as a fan
Will Canada get to play?
While co-hosting the World Cup has occurred before – Japan and South Korea shared the honour in 2002 – this will be the first time that three nations have co-hosted the tournament.
Historically, the host nation has always been allowed to bypass the qualification rounds and enter the World Cup automatically.
At this point, it seems likely that all three host nations will qualify automatically for the expanded 48-team tournament, but this is not a done deal (the 2018 World Cup finals includes 32 teams, as will the 2022 tournament, to be held in Qatar). FIFA previously ruled that should the “United bid” be awarded the 2026 tournament, the number of host countries to qualify automatically would be decided by another vote by the FIFA council sometime in the future.
The Canadian team last played in a World Cup in 1986, when it lost all three group games. Since then, the team’s efforts to qualify for a World Cup have ranged from heartbreaking to farcical. Entering a do-or-die match to qualify for the 2014 World Cup, Canada managed to suffer a humiliating 8-1 pummeling at the hands of mighty Honduras.
If Canada does end up playing at its own tournament, either by right our having qualified through on-field merit, the team will have to improve in order to avoid embarrassment on the global stage.
The 2026 World Cup will feature a new format of 16 round-robin groups of three teams with the top two from each pool advancing to a 32-nation knockout round. Host countries will play their group games in their home countries . . . if they are playing at all, of course.
June 13, 2018
By Hugo O'Doherty
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