The news from Canada this week was that they are getting ready to bid for the 2026 World Cup. As an American, I say good luck to them. Not only would it raise the level of play in Canada, helping the U.S. at the same time, but it takes away another competitive team from the region for a qualifying spot.
Still, does Canada have what it takes to host a World Cup? Let’s look at some positives and negatives.
Canada has the infrastructure. Much like the U.S., Canada has large stadiums that could easily host matches. Stadiums in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Regina, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa all have, or will have, a capacity of over 30,000. Public transportation in each of those cities is terrific and could be excellent for visiting fans.
A population of 33 million. Compared to the U.S., that may not be a lot of people, but in comparison to the rest of the world, it’s about average. Australia only has 25 million people and they had a very competitive bid for the 2022 World Cup. Many of Canada’s population are either immigrants themselves or first or second generation. They have large Italian and Portuguese communities in the east and large Japanese, Chinese, and Korean communities in the west. Plus, there are the French speakers in Quebec who culturally feel linked to France. The fan base would be absolutely rapid with enthusiasm.
The United States. Having the world’s largest media market as your next door neighbor can only be a good thing in this case. Every year more and more Americans tune into the World Cup. Having the tournament in the same time zone as the United States would only increase the viewership.
Success in hosting past tournaments. The 2007 U-20 World Cup was the most successful U-20 tournament to date. Before the tournament had already begun, almost a million tickets had been sold. The tournament ran incredibly smoothly. Canada is also getting ready to host the 2015 Women’s World Cup. All indications are that the tournament will be a tremendous success as well. After the drama of building stadiums and the readiness of infrastructure in South Africa and Brazil, and the upcoming potential disaster in Qatar, FIFA could be ready to put the World Cup in a place that it knows it can trust.
The Canadian Soccer Association or CSA. Many in Canada have blamed the CSA for the lack of growth in the sport in the country despite a natural fan base. Many have charged the CSA with being too beholden to the provincial associations at the expense of the country. The CSA has also had disputes with its national teams. If Canada is going to host the World Cup, they’ll need the CSA to streamline its organization.
The national team’s lack of success. The Men’s National Team has only made the World Cup once, all the way back in 1986. Since then, Canada has struggled to make it to the final rounds of CONCACAF Qualifying. That could change this cycle as Canada has their best chance to qualify in a very long time. The problem has always been that players are so spread out around the globe that it is very difficult to get them together at the same time. FIFA may not want to give the World Cup to a team that can’t compete (but they did already do that with Qatar).
Politics. Let’s face it, everyone knows that the bid process for the World Cup is not based on merit. If that were the case someplace other than Qatar would be hosting in 2022. But on the bright side, since World Cup bidding has lost out to cronyism, maybe the CSA has a shot, as they certainly have the experience.
Hopefully Canada will get a fair shot at the World Cup. They are a world class country and they deserve a chance.
What do you think? Could or should Canada host the 2026 World Cup?
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