Earlier this year, the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) announced its plans to bid to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup. The CSA has implemented a strategic four-year plan to transform the country into a leading soccer nation.
Canada will host the 2015 Women’s World Cup as well as the U-20 Women’s World Cup from August 5-24 of this year. Canada and Zimbabwe were the initial bidders for the U-20 Cup until Zimbabwe withdrew, leaving Canada as the sole contender. If the upcoming events prove successful for the country, they could pave the way for a shot at hosting the World Cup in 2026.
A safe bet
Recent hosting choices have been met with criticism amid concerns over high temperatures and allegations of corruption involving the 2022 Qatar tournament. Qatar will need to update their stadiums to comfortably accommodate attendees when the local temperature hits the expected 37°C mark during the event. FIFA will also need to complete their investigation regarding claims of financial wrongdoing linked to former Qatari board member Mohamed bin Hammam, who has been suspected of paying millions of dollars to buy support from African football officials.
Russia is slated to host the World Cup in 2018 and still has a ways to go regarding recovery from the negative publicity generated throughout the Sochi Winter Olympics. These controversies could ultimately bode well for Canada’s chances, as the country may be seen as a conservative “safe” bet when compared to other hosts or potential bidders.
The cost of hosting the Cup could be considerable. This year’s World Cup has cost Brazil an estimated $11.3 billion thus far. Most of the cost can be attributed to new stadiums and renovations: FIFA requires that the hosting city provide at least eight venues that seat 40,000-plus attendees and one stadium with a capacity of 80,000 to host the tournament final. At present, Canada’s largest venue is Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, which seats 56,302. Canada has six stadiums with capacity above the 40,000 mark. The CSA does not see a need for a lot of new construction, as many existing CFL venues are expandable.
“I believe we have enough there to put a successful bid together in the stadia that are currently available and maybe one more that would meet the highest needs of FIFA,” says Peter Montopoli, general secretary of the CSA.
Whether or not hosting will benefit the country’s economy remains to be seen. A study by Goldman Sachs found a 2.7 percent market increase for the month following the World Cup. Conversely, a study conducted by economists at the University of Hamburg in 2009 found little to no economic gains in tourism, employment or income as a result of hosting the tournament. But hosting successful global competitions in Canada could certainly elevate the profile of soccer in the country, aid in the development of new commercial partnerships and bolster the athletic industry to create more revenue and jobs in the long run.