If the hype video that accompanied Monday’s announcement of a joint World Cup 2026 bid between the USA, Canada and Mexico was anything to go by, the organizers are keeping their options open when it comes to host cities.
Just to recap the Canada section: there’s Ottawa, some mountains in the Rockies, Toronto, Quebec City, Vancouver, Vancouver again and Niagara Falls.
Assuming Canada Soccer are not planning on erecting a 40,000-seater stadium on Clifton Hill any time soon, we can safely assume that an appearance in the video does not equal host-city status. It would seem that is still very much up for grabs, seeing as Victor Montagliani gave literally the vaguest answer possible when asked about venues, and he has until December 2018, after all, before the proposal has to be finalized with his American and Mexican colleagues.
In the meantime, we can speculate. What makes sense when it comes to sharing out Canada’s 10 potential games in 2026?
The two-city option
Toronto and Vancouver would seem like locks. They are the first and third-largest metropolitan areas in the country and boast the two stadiums that would need the least work to become World Cup-ready, with BC Place requiring a grass pitch and BMO Field 10,000 seats - for which there is obvious space at the north and south ends - to meet specifications.
Both cities have experience of hosting major events and could also be clustered with nearby American cities to keep travel requirements between games low.
In fact, perhaps the simplest solution - though not necessarily the most equitable one - for the Canadian side of the bid would simply be to hand Vancouver and Toronto five games each; one three-team group per city plus a last-32 match and a last-16 match. The entire bid, in fact, could be made up of 16 cities that each host their own group, meaning there would be no repeat of the long-haul flights to Manaus we saw in 2014.
Bringing in Montreal
The second-largest population centre in Canada, of course, is Montreal, and Mayor Denis Corderre has already expressed a desire to bring World Cup games to his city. That would require more work and more money than is the case in Vancouver and Toronto, with Corderre admitting he has “no idea” whether potential Montreal games would be hosted at the Olympic Stadium or in a new arena.
While the Big O played its part in the Women’s World Cup and can still generate a great atmosphere, god only knows what kind of state it will be in by the time 2026 comes around without major investment. It is currently only fully operational for four or five months a year and its roof is beyond repair, with the Quebec government looking for private partners to partially take it over.
If those challenges can realistically be financed and overcome, you would have to think Montreal will be in. If, again, we assume that some clustering is going to be required to prevent teams from having to fly from Vancouver to Guadalajara between games, they would comfortably fit into a cluster with, say, Toronto, New York City and Boston.
Games for everyone!
If the CSA really wanted to bring the World Cup to all of Canada, the venues are there. Though not especially soccer-specific, Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium holds 56,000 already. Mosaic Stadium in Regina and Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, meanwhile, are both new facilities that are not far off the 40,000 minimum. Perhaps even TD Place Stadium in Ottawa could be temporarily expanded.
While the stadiums exist, the geographical and financial reality would probably prove too great a burden. No one has topped the 20 venues used by South Korea and Japan in 2002, and while the North American 2026 bid could conceivably match that it would be a surprise to see it exceed it given the greater travel that would be involved over a much larger land mass.
There’s a few ways to do this thing, but having been first to announce an official bid there is plenty of time for the CSA - as well as U.S. Soccer and the Mexican Football Federation - to figure out which method they prefer.