Canada will help to host 2026 World Cup games

U.S., Canada, Mex­ico to host 2026 event

Times Colonist - - Business - NEIL DAVID­SON

In the end, money talked.

FIFA’s mem­ber as­so­ci­a­tions had 11 bil­lion rea­sons to say yes to the joint bid from Canada, the U.S. and Mex­ico to host the 2026 World Cup. Morocco could only of­fer the world gov­ern­ing body of soc­cer $5 bil­lion US in profit from the ex­panded 48-team men’s soc­cer show­case.

Given FIFA es­sen­tially uses its cash cow to fund ev­ery­thing else, the North Amer­i­can bid’s prom­ise of a record $11 bil­lion US in profit res­onated.

Peter Mon­topoli, gen­eral sec­re­tary of the Cana­dian Soc­cer As­so­ci­a­tion and Canada’s bid di­rec­tor, ac­knowl­edged the bot­tom line was a key fac­tor in the bid win on Wed­nes­day in Moscow.

“Ob­vi­ously the num­bers, the prof­its, which were as­tound­ing,” he said in an in­ter­view.

But he also pointed to the cer­tainty of the bid’s 23 sta­di­ums — al­ready built, bur­nished and ready for ac­tion — in­clud­ing Toronto’s BMO Field, Ed­mon­ton’s Com­mon­wealth Sta­dium and Mon­treal’s Olympic Sta­dium.

The third plank was the prospect of a knock ’em dead kick­off to the tour­na­ment — three games back-to-back-to back in Toronto, Mex­ico City’s Azteca Sta­dium and the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Cal­i­for­nia.

Fac­tor­ing in an ex­pan­sion to BMO Field — the bid doc­u­ment lists its tour­na­ment ca­pac­ity at 45,500 — open­ing day could draw more than 220,000 spec­ta­tors through the turn­stiles.

The joint North Amer­ica bid won 67 per cent of Wed­nes­day’s vote at the FIFA Congress, de­feat­ing Morocco 134-65 with one coun­try, Iran, vot­ing for none of the above.

The joint bid pitched a near shutout in the Amer­i­cas, win­ning 38 of 39 votes cast. Only Brazil opted for Morocco, which might have been a bless­ing given its re­cent his­tory of World Cup stew­ard­ship.

Europe and Asia came through with the North Amer­i­can bid tak­ing 11 African votes away from Morocco.

FIFA pres­i­dent Gianni In­fantino tried un­suc­cess­fully to play down the profit an­gle.

“Ob­vi­ously the money is not the only el­e­ment, ob­vi­ously,” he told a news con­fer­ence later in the day. “We have to fo­cus on the foot­ball, I’ve said it many times. But the money we gen­er­ate can be rein­vested in foot­ball.”

In­fantino, who used the day to an­nounce he is run­ning for re-elec­tion, then pro­ceeded to talk about how FIFA’s rev­enues had risen on his watch.

For Canada, co-host­ing the 2026 tour­na­ment will come 40 years af­ter its lone ap­pear­ance at the men’s World Cup. The Cana­dian men went 0-3-0 with­out man­ag­ing to score a goal in Mex­ico in 1986.

Per­haps the hap­pi­est man in Canada was men’s na­tional team coach John Herd­man.

“It’s of­fi­cially foot­ball Christ­mas for Canada. It’s here.” said the English na­tive. “It’s one of those morn­ings where you won­der if Santa’s gonna come, and he ab­so­lutely did this morn­ing.”

Herd­man, whose team is cur­rently tied with Le­banon at No. 79 in the world rank­ings, has yet to hear whether the three co-hosts will se­cure au­to­matic qual­i­fi­ca­tion as is the norm. But given the in­crease in the size of the field and FIFA’s de­sire to squeeze ev­ery buck out of the tour­na­ment, it would be shocking if the host coun­tries were not front and cen­tre.

Herd­man isn’t ask­ing for hand­outs, say­ing he has his eye firmly on qual­i­fy­ing for 2022.

While In­fantino said no de­ci­sion had been made on au­to­matic qual­i­fi­ca­tion, he said CONCACAF would have seven slots in 2026 — com­pared to 3 1⁄2 at present in the smaller 32-team field.

ALEXAN­DER ZEMLIANICHENKO, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Canada’s Vic­tor Mon­tagliani, left, pres­i­dent of CONCACAF, cel­e­brates with del­e­gates from the U.S. and Mex­ico and FIFA Pres­i­dent Gianni In­fantino, right, af­ter win­ning a joint bid to host the 2026 World Cup.

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