Seven Canadian cities are in the race to be one of the host cities for the joint bid by Canada, the United States, and Mexico to host the month-long 2026 FIFA World Cup.
A long list of 46 cities across North America have been identified as potential host cities to be included in the bid plan, according to the United Bid Committee in a release today.
The potential Canadian cities, encompassing a total of nine stadiums, are Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton, and Regina.
Vancouver’s BC Place Stadium is a likely a favourite given its recent major renovations and acclaimed history with hosting the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup championship final and a number of qualifiers for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Canada Soccer has previously referred BC Place as Canada’s flagship stadium, although natural grass would need to be installed in order to host this men’s tournament.
Both Toronto and Montreal each have multiple stadiums that have been identified as potential venues, namely Rogers Centre and BMO Field in Toronto and Olympic Stadium and Saputo Stadium in Montreal.
However, Rogers Centre is not ideal as its configuration is primarily designed for baseball and would not be attractive for the high-calibre FIFA tournament.
BMO Field, the most likely Toronto venue, would necessitate a 10,000 seat expansion to meet the minimum 40,000-seat FIFA requirement for the early stage matches.
Similar expansion work would also be required for Saputo Stadium, which currently only seats about 21,000.
While McMahon Stadium in Calgary has been named as another possible venue, major retrofits and a temporary seating expansion will likely be required to boost the venue’s condition to a world-class level.
It is unlikely a Canadian city will be a contender for the opening match and championship final as such a venue for both key matches must seat at least 80,000. But Olympic Stadium and possibly BC Place and Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium could potentially meet the requirements for the quarter-final and semi-final matches.
Within the United States, 37 stadiums within 34 cities are being considered, including stadiums in Atlanta, Chicago, Boston, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York City, San Francisco, and Seattle.
However, only three stadiums in three Mexican cities – Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Monterrey – have been identified as suitable candidates.
Only a small fraction of these identified cities will become Official Host Cities of the tournament, if it is awarded to the United Bid.
The bid committee says it plans to include between 20 and 25 venues in its final bid, and it anticipates FIFA will allow at least 12 locations to become Official Host Cities. A shortlist of cities and stadiums for inclusion in the bid will be made next month in advance of FIFA’s bid submission deadline on March 16, 2018.
“Official Host Cities included in the bid will be critical to the successful United Bid of Canada, Mexico and the United States to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup and we look forward to working with all levels of government and our stakeholders to find the best possible candidate cities in Canada,” said Peter Montopoli, Canada Bid Director and Canada Soccer General Secretary in a statement.
“The 2026 FIFA World Cup is an incredible opportunity for our country to develop the men’s game and ensure that Canada continues as a leading soccer nation for the next generation.”
The joint North American bid is widely deemed as a favourite to win as the only competitor is Morocco. The deadline for bids to submit their interest was on Monday, and the winning bid will be decided at the FIFA Congress in June 2018.
With the World Cup’s expansion from a 32-team tournament to 48 teams in 2026, more sports venues and infrastructure will be required, making a multi-country bid more sensible given the enormous costs required to deliver the expanded world event.