2026 win ‘a game-changer’ for Canada

Times Colonist - - Sports - CLEVE DHEENSAW

The Cana­dian soc­cer com­mu­nity, in­clud­ing on the Is­land, is em­brac­ing what is be­ing de­scribed as a gen­er­a­tional mo­ment for Cana­dian sport.

Words like “game-changer” and “wa­ter­shed” are rou­tinely be­ing used af­ter the United Bid of Canada, Mex­ico and U.S. won the right Wed­nes­day to host the 2026 World Cup.

“I was at the FIFA Congress to­day in Moscow and it was such an in­cred­i­ble mo­ment when Gianni In­fantino made the an­nounce­ment. It’s a huge step for Canada, an ab­so­lutely mas­sive op­por­tu­nity to take foot­ball to the next level in Canada,” said Josh Simp­son of Vic­to­ria, the former Cana­dian na­tional team player with 43 caps.

Simp­son is among the own­er­ship group bring­ing a Greater Vic­to­ria fran­chise into the fledg­ling pro­fes­sional Cana­dian Pre­mier League in 2019.

“The tim­ing could not be bet­ter for the launch of the CPL as the love for the game will only grow as we build to­ward 2026. These are very ex­cit­ing times for foot­ball in Canada,” added Simp­son.

Simp­son is in Moscow at­tend­ing un­der the FIFA Leg­ends Pro­gram: “There are lots of big faces here, and lots of peo­ple sup­port­ing the CPL, so we are re­ally pos­i­tive. To­day was such a boost for us and the mo­men­tum build­ing now for soc­cer in Canada is re­ally ex­cit­ing.”

He will get no ar­gu­ment from the own­er­ship group of the Vic­to­ria High­landers of the United Soc­cer League Pre­mier De­vel­op­ment League.

“This changes the face and game of soc­cer in Canada,” said Mark de Frias, co-owner of the High­landers.

“It is an un­be­liev­able mo­ment for soc­cer in Canada and North Amer­ica. Our com­mu­nity is a lit­tle bit taller to­day, a bit prouder, a bit more ex­cited to play the sport, to en­gage with the sport, to in­vest in the sport, to com­mit the time to coach­ing and learn­ing and build­ing the sport. This is an ab­so­lute gamechanger for soc­cer and we’ll see the im­prove­ment of our soc­cer com­mu­nity through the com­ing months and years run­ning up to the 2026 World Cup.”

The only time Canada played in the World Cup was in 1986 with Is­land play­ers Ian Bridge, Jamie Low­ery and Ge­orge Pakos.

FIFA will vote later on how the host team berths will be al­lo­cated among the three na­tions host­ing the 2026 World Cup. It is thought they will be awarded 2.5 berths be­tween them. It rep­re­sents the best chance to play in the World Cup that Canada has had since 1986.

“World Cup 2026 will shape the dreams and goals of the youth out there to­day,” said Simp­son.

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