North Amer­ica gets the nod, now Ed­mon­ton must as well

23 cities in bid will be cut to 16, with fi­nances front and cen­tre

Edmonton Journal - - FRONT PAGE - DEREK VAN DIEST

The big­gest sport­ing event in the world could be on its way to Ed­mon­ton.

The 2026 FIFA World Cup was awarded to the United North Amer­i­can bid sub­mit­ted by Canada, the United States and Mex­ico on Wed­nes­day morn­ing at the 68th FIFA Congress in Moscow.

Ed­mon­ton, Toronto and Mon­treal are the three Cana­dian cities pro­vi­sion­ally des­ig­nated to host games at the 2026 tour­na­ment, which is ex­pand­ing to 48 teams from the cur­rent 32-team for­mat.

“I’m re­ally ex­cited at the prospect of en­ter­tain­ing the 2026 World Cup in our coun­try,” Canada Soc­cer pres­i­dent Steven Reed said on a con­fer­ence call from Rus­sia. “We have three won­der­ful cities that have had great suc­cess in host­ing in­ter­na­tional sport­ing events. I think all of those cities are ex­cited to be part of this process.”

Ed­mon­ton’s Alphonso Davies, 17, spoke in the United Bid’s fi­nal pre­sen­ta­tion to the Congress be­fore 200 FIFA del­e­gates were asked to vote. The North Amer­i­can bid re­ceived 134 votes, de­feat­ing a bid from Morocco, which ob­tained 65 votes. One del­e­gate re­fused to vote for ei­ther bid.

The suc­cess­ful North Amer­i­can bid brings the men’s World Cup to Canada for the first time. The ma­jor­ity of the 80 matches will be played in the United States, which hosted the 1994 FIFA World Cup. Mex­ico played host to the 1970 World Cup and 1986 World Cup. Canada and Mex­ico are each ex­pected to host 10 games.

Of the 23 cities in­cluded in the orig­i­nal North Amer­i­can bid, 16 will be cho­sen and uti­lized for the 2026 tour­na­ment. Each can­di­date city will likely have to make fi­nan­cial assurances to FIFA be­fore be­ing granted of­fi­cial host sta­tus.

The Ed­mon­ton com­mit­ment ranges from $30 mil­lion to $50 mil­lion. Ac­cord­ing to Mayor Don Ive­son, the city would reach out to the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment for fi­nan­cial sup­port. A de­ci­sion on fund­ing is ex­pected in 2020.

“Ob­vi­ously, sooner is bet­ter be­cause we’d like to have some mo­men­tum around this bid,” Ive­son said. “We’d like to have a sense of cer­tainty that we’re go­ing to be in­cluded in the fi­nal 16 cities.”

In­di­vid­ual mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties will be re­spon­si­ble for sta­dium up­grades and other costs. The North Amer­i­can bid guar­an­teed all games would be played on nat­u­ral grass, which means the ar­ti­fi­cial turf at Com­mon­wealth Sta­dium would have to be re­placed for the tour­na­ment.

And, de­spite be­ing in­cluded as a des­ti­na­tion city in the orig­i­nal bid, Ed­mon­ton is not guar­an­teed to be a fi­nal host.

“It would be a huge lost op­por­tu­nity, given the fa­cil­ity that we have, given the op­por­tu­nity that we have to put Ed­mon­ton on the world stage again,” Ive­son said. “We’ve shown that Ed­mon­to­ni­ans are huge fans of the beau­ti­ful game and want to be able to see it played at the high­est level in our city.”

Canada has been the site of nu­mer­ous FIFA events in the past, in­clud­ing the men’s Un­der-16 World Cham­pi­onship in 1987, the 2002 un­der-19 women’s World Cham­pi­onship, the 2007 men’s Un­der-20 World Cup, the 2014 Un­der-20 Women’s World Cup and the 2015 Women’s World Cup.

Ed­mon­ton hosted 11 matches of the Women’s World Cup in 2015, which in­cluded the open­ing game of the tour­na­ment be­tween Canada and China, a semi­fi­nal, and the third-place game.

As co-hosts, the Cana­dian na­tional team is ex­pected to gain an au­to­matic berth in the 2026 tour­na­ment with the United States and Mex­ico. Canada’s sole World Cup ap­pear­ance was in 1986 in Mex­ico, where it did not score a goal, los­ing to France, Hun­gary and the Soviet Union in the group stage.

“It’s a tremen­dous op­por­tu­nity for us; this is ob­vi­ously a world­class event, a scope of which we haven’t seen in our coun­try,” added Reed. “It’s one of the strong­est sports, the largest sports and I think it can be­come the pre­em­i­nent sport in our coun­try. That’s the legacy that we’d like to see.”

We’d like to have a sense of cer­tainty that we’re go­ing to be in­cluded in the fi­nal 16 cities.

GREG SOUTHAM

Ed­mon­ton soc­cer fan Luca Mosele was all smiles Wed­nes­day af­ter FIFA an­nounced North Amer­ica had won the bid to host the World Cup in 2026. Ed­mon­ton was among the 22 cities listed in the three-na­tion bid, but just 16 will ac­tu­ally host World Cup games.

Comments

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.