FIFA delegation completes visits to 2026 World Cup candidate cities with a stop in Toronto

TORONTO – A FIFA delegation concluded its visits to candidate cities for the 2026 World Cup on Monday with a stop in Toronto after seeing Canadian football at its best snowy in Edmonton.

“I noticed at the time that it was very cold, but a very warm atmosphere,” Colin Smith, FIFA’s head of tournaments and events, said of Edmonton, where his group witnessed the Canadian men beat CONCACAF powerhouse Mexico with 2 -1 last Tuesday before an announced crowd of 44,212 at Commonwealth Stadium.

“It was just fantastic to have the passion of the crowd in these circumstances. And that shows the support there is for football, football as I call it, in Canada.”

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Canada’s men’s soccer team attracting attention, winning matches and fans in the World Cup qualifier run

Kind words were also given to Toronto—the other Canadian candidate city—at a lunchtime press conference high atop Hotel X, just steps from BMO Field.

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Vancouver native Victor Montagliani, who is also CONCACAF President and FIFA Vice President, called the Toronto pitch – with a presentation by MLSE President Larry Tanenbaum – “very thorough and excellent.”

“I thought their presentation not only exemplifies what it takes… but also showed in terms of what I call the software, not just the hardware – the diversity of the city, what football has historically brought to the city.” What is football in this city,” said Montagliani.

“Football has been here for a long time. And of course, in terms of being at the sharp end of the game, it’s gone to another level in the last, I’d say, at least 10 years,” he added.

Toronto Mayor John Tory added: “We are all for bringing the FIFA World Cup to Toronto in 2026.”

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The FIFA delegation has now visited 22 cities, including 23 locations featuring the two Canadian cities plus Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Cincinnati, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, New York/New Jersey, Orlando , Philadelphia , the San Francisco Bay area, Seattle and Washington, DC in the US, and Guadalajara, Mexico City and Monterrey in Mexico.

The 2026 tournament has expanded to 48 teams, up from 32, with a total of 80 matches. Under the bidding committee’s original plan, Canada and Mexico were to host 10 matches, each with the US hosting 60, including all matches from the quarter-finals.

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While the number of host cities was initially pegged at 16, Smith said the final number has not been defined.

“We will finalize these visits and then decide what is the most appropriate number we need to host the tournament,” he said.

Click to play video: 'Canada takes historic victory over Mexico in World Cup qualifier'

Canada takes historic victory over Mexico in World Cup qualifier

Canada takes historic victory over Mexico in World Cup qualifier

The host city selection process is expected to be completed in April.

Montreal was also a Canadian candidate city, but withdrew in July.

That followed a decision by the provincial government to withdraw its support, citing cost overruns that would be difficult for taxpayers to justify.

BC Prime Minister John Horgan went on to say his province was willing to “maintain” the ability to host games in Vancouver. Horgan said Montreal’s decision to step down “creates a real opportunity for Vancouver”.

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When asked about Vancouver’s status, Montagliani was noncommittal.

“I know the Prime Minister of British Columbia had shown some interest and that’s great,” he said. “But right now we are dealing with the players we have, not the players who are not on the team.”

Click to play video: 'Canada men's football comes to Edmonton for World Cup qualifiers'

Canada men’s football comes to Edmonton for World Cup qualifiers

Canada men’s football comes to Edmonton for World Cup qualifiers – October 19, 2021

Smith reiterated that FIFA was working with the original cities that remain on board. “That’s definitely the focus,” he said.

The BC Place Stadium in Vancouver was a key part of the 2015 Women’s World Cup, which hosted nine matches, including the final. But the FIFA timeline doesn’t seem in favor of a late bid.

The candidate site visits will cover site management, infrastructure and sustainability, as well as commercial, legal and legacy matters. They also include inspections of stadiums, training facilities and potential FIFA fan festival venues.

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The FIFA delegation visited BMO Field after Monday’s press conference. If chosen, the lakeside stadium would be equipped with temporary seating to bring it up to FIFA’s minimum capacity of 45,000.

© 2021 The Canadian Press


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