In less than a decade, the FIFA World Cup could be coming to Canada for the first time, but hosting duties will be shared with the United States and Mexico.
It was announced today by the national soccer federations of Canada, United States, and Mexico that all three North American countries plan to submit a joint bid to host the tournament in 2026.
The United Bid Committee officially submitted their intention to bid to FIFA, meeting today’s deadline for prospective bids to state their intention in the bidding process.
Canada’s share in the tournament could be 25%
At this early stage of the bidding process, there are no details on the potential host cities and venues. However, the organization’s board of directors makeup comprised of leading soccer executives from all three countries could provide a hint of the makeup of the host cities and the division in responsibilities and benefits between the countries.
United States Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati is the chairman of the 13-member board, which includes three Canadians – Soccer Canada’s President Steven Reed and General Secretary Peter Montopoli and CONCACAF President Victor Montagliani.
That is nearly 25% of the seats on the board, which could possibly mean 25% of the matches will be held in Canada.
Two other board members are from Mexico while the remaining seven board members are representatives from the United States.
“Canada will continue to collaborate with our partners in Mexico and the United States to put forth a world class bid that will demonstrate to FIFA that the United Bid of Canada, Mexico and the United States is the right choice to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup,” said Steven Reed, President of Canada Soccer, in a statement.
The only other bid is Morocco
There is a very good chance that the World Cup could be returning to North America for the first time since the 1994 tournament held in the United States. Mexico has also previously hosted the event twice in 1970 and 1986.
The United Bid’s only competitor for the 2026 tournament is a bid from Morocco as countries in Europe, Asia, and Oceania are ineligible from bidding for this year.
The last and only time multiple countries established a successful partnership to host the World Cup was 2002 in South Korea and Japan.
“We’ve always been prepared for the fact that other countries could also decide to bid for the 2026 FIFA World Cup,” added United Bid Committee Chair Sunil Gulati.
“Competition is good, and overall it shows the value and importance of the FIFA World Cup. We’re excited to prepare a bid that will demonstrate to FIFA that the first FIFA World Cup to be held in the CONCACAF region since 1994 should be awarded to Canada, Mexico and the United States.”
Expanded 48-team tournament in 2026
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.
Bids for the 2026 tournament are due to FIFA on March 16, 2017, and a decision will be made on the winning bid at the FIFA Congress in June.
Although Canada’s women’s soccer team has made immense strides over the past decade, culminating with recent Olympic medal performances, the men have not participated in the World Cup since their lone appearance in 1986.
Canada hosted the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, which was deemed a major attendance success and breakthrough for the sport in the country.
If the 2026 bid is successful, Toronto’s BMO Field, Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium, and Vancouver’s BC Place Stadium will all likely be contenders for hosting Canada’s share of the matches.
In particular, BC Place Stadium – considered Canada’s flagship stadium by Soccer Canada after its renovations earlier in the decade – would most likely have a major role in the tournament. Given the opportunity and the requirement for the men’s tournament, real grass could be temporarily installed as the playing surface.
The 55,000-seat stadium also held the coveted championship final for the Women’s World Cup in 2015 and has since hosted a number of qualifier matches ahead of the 2018 tournament in Russia.
Commonwealth Stadium could be a venue as well given its size and previous role as the venue for the opening match in 2015.
BMO Field is another potential venue as it was recently extensively renovated. The stadium is designed to accommodate another 10,000 seats, which would increase the seating capacity to the FIFA World Cup minimum requirement of 40,000 seats.
All of the stadiums in the tournament must seat at least 40,000 spectators, with exception to the minimum 80,000-seat stadium for the opening match and championship final and the minimum 60,000-seat stadiums required for the semi-final matches.