Home Global Game Rest of the World CSA continues to talk about 2026 World Cup bid: Why an early statement of intent is vital

CSA continues to talk about 2026 World Cup bid: Why an early statement of intent is vital

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The Canadian Soccer Association’s plan to bid for the 2026 World Cup isn’t exactly a secret. In fact, it’s been openly talked about since FIFA confirmed this country as the host of the 2015 Women’s World Cup.

CSA president Victor Montagliani continued the pattern this weekend, telling the CBC that all the ducks are being placed in a row for an official bid that will come in a couple of years time. (CLICK HERE)

This only echoes CSA General Secretary Peter Montopoli’s comments that he made to the media in Edmonton back in March, where he called the U-20 World Cup and Women’s World Cup the “building blocks” toward a 2026 World Cup bid. (CLICK HERE)

Montagliani and Montopoli are doing the right thing, revealing the CSA’s intentions well ahead of the actual bid process.

Of course, how seriously our bid will be received will depend on how well we do as hosts of the Women’s World Cup. But, by making no secret of Canada’s intentions, we’re the first country in CONCACAF to plant our flag. And that’s important. CONCACAF feels that this region will get the 2026 World Cup (CLICK HERE), especially after the American bid was rebuffed for Qatar 2022. Of course, that could mean there are American and/or Mexican bids to come, depending on how many billions of dollars or pesos their governments wish to spend (or not spend).

Canada is in a unique position. We share our first division with the United States — or, as the cynic would say, we have three Canadian teams in American first division. But, with an early statement of intent, the CSA can use that relationship to its favour.

How?

MLS was a bold supporter of the USA 2022 bid. Former NASL commissioner David Downs was also part of that bid. But, by getting the bid in first, the CSA’s message to our shared leagues is simple — either support us or stay out of the fight . So, if an American bid does come, MLS (and maybe even NASL) is put between a rock and a hard place. Does it support both bids? How would it deal with the inevitable Canadian public-relations nightmare if it was to support an American bid over our bid — especially when the Canadian teams fill their stadiums and generate TV interest the majority of U.S.-based teams would kill to have?

On the NASL level, currently FC Edmonton have the only national TV deal of any of the seven spring-season teams, even if stadium issues contribute to attendances lower than league average.

By making the statement, it creates a bit of a political mess between the U.S. and Canada — if the Americans choose to bid again. No two countries have so many intertwined soccer relationships as we do with the U.S. So, would the Americans need to respect a “we were here first” statement by the CSA? Does an early statement of intent by the CSA in fact impair a potential U.S. bid? What Montagliani needs is Canada to be CONCACAF’s clear choice — and, to be frank, an early Canadian forces the Americans to play their hand. If anyone is to be Canada’s competitor in CONCACAF in terms of hosting the 2026 World Cup, it’s the U.S. So, it’s best to figure out early where the USSF stands; and if it does choose to bid, an early CSA statement of intent could isolate USSF from some of its allies, such as MLS.

As well, the early statements give plenty of time for the Canadian federal parties to all prepare themselves for what could be a massive financial ask in a few years’ time. Stadiums will need to be built. Infrastructure, to get fans between cities, will need to be improved.

Trust me, if there’s anything that scares foreigners about attending a Women’s World Cup in Canada, it’s just how much it costs to fly from Vancouver to Edmonton. Rail service in Canada is aimed for the sightseeing retiree, not for the person who actually wants to get anywhere. Getting from Los Angeles to New York is much easier (and cheaper) than getting from Vancouver to Toronto. We’d need to fix that, at least for one month in 2026.

We’d need billions for stadiums for a 2026 World Cup. With early CSA pronouncements, it prepares governments and taxpayers. In no way will spending billions in Canada for a World Cup be an easy sell.

Of course, this latest round of talk comes on a weekend in which Canada lost its Gold Cup opener to mighty Martinique. But, the quality of Canada’s team and hosting should not be linked. South Africa wasn’t exactly the best African soccer nation in terms of quality of play, and it became the first African nation to host the World Cup. Qatar? Not a soccer power by any means. In fact, that Canada could go to FIFA and claim it needs a World Cup to build its program, rather than maintain a strong one, looks to be a selling point.

FieldTurf or artificial turf? Not as much of an issue. From the Canadian site inspections at the Women’s World Cup, we know there was a big push — and it came from FIFA offices in Switzerland — to not convert any of the stadiums to grass surfaces. Make no mistake; FIFA desperately wants this 2015 Women’s World Cup tournament to be played on artificial surfaces, so it can end this debate of grass vs. fake stuff. If 2015 is successful, then the idea of fake stuff for senior men’s games can be (gasp!) launched.

I’m not writing that as a big supporter of fake surfaces; in a perfect world, all soccer would be played on grass. But I also understand the giant global push to see cheaper-to-maintain artificial surfaces put into use with the blessing of FIFA.

Can Canada host a World Cup? We will have to ask ourselves if it’s worth it as a country to spend the tens of billions needed. In the global community, we should be seen as a good candidate: An oil- and natural-resource power that got through the economic crisis better than most of our first-world counterparts. Nothing shows how you flex your muscles as an economic power as the hosting of an opulent sporting event like an Olympics or World Cup (mind you, both the World Cup and Olympics were supposed to show off the economic tiger that is the new Brazil; but the protests that dominated the recent Confederations Cup changed that plan). If soccer alone is the selling point, it’s doubtful that a bid would find the political support in Canada’s regions needed to raise the billions of public money needed. But if it’s about showing Canada at the top of the economic mountain, if it’s about, well, showing off — that’s something you can sell. It’s the reality of sport as a political endeavour.

And, so far, Montagliani and Montopoli have done a good job of being politicians.

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3 Comments

  1. Tfcfan4life

    July 10, 2013 at 12:10 am

    I’m fine with this idea. The transportation will not be that big a deal if you keep the group games in the same cities. Brazil is making the fans travel around the country to catch games from the same group.

    As said above, our stadium situation will only improve by that time anyways and maybe build 2-3 as new and improve the rest.

    This is not a developing country with crumbling infrastructure we are talking about.

    Reply

  2. renzie49

    July 8, 2013 at 5:10 pm

    I cant see there would be any appetite to spend “billions” on stadiums. What cities would host and what do they presently have available that could be utilized/ upgraded? Vancouver has BC Place which would be just fine. Edmonton has Commonwealth that would need refurbising but not an entire new stadium. Winnipeg has a brand new stadium which could likely be temporarily expended. Olympic Stadium should still be standing!? Regina is in talks about a new stadium and Hamilton is currently building a new stadium. David Braley is promising a new CFL stdium in Toronto within 5 years. Calgary will likey get a new stadium for the Stampeders sometime in the next 10 years. That makes 8 cities with exisiting stadium. Both France in 1998 and Germany in 2006 had the World Cup primarily out of existing stadiums, many with capacity around 40,000 give or take a few. It is only Japan, South Africa and now Brazil who have/are spending way too much money on stadiums that will never be filled again. One can now see how the population in Brazil is resonding to “billions” being spent for a month-long circus.I would think that a reurn to fiscal sense by the time we get to 2026 is not a far-fetched idea. As such why not try to do it largely within exisiting infrastructure with only more modest new stadiums. Clearly you have not been to Brazil or South Africa if you think Canadian transportation would be problematic to football fans.

    Reply

  3. Mike

    July 8, 2013 at 3:55 pm

    IMO your story is a little out there Steve. Do you really think Americans care what Canada wants? We are a supporting sideshow of THEIR soccer leagues. Never mind all the other aspects of money (billions really?) poor CSA performance at this level etc.

    Reply

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