Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Unified North American FIFA World Cup Bid Raises Questions

As a life-long soccer fan, it's truly amazing to hear that Canada, U.S.A., and Mexico have united to bring the FIFA World Cup to our continent. However, not even two seconds into the discussion, that's where the unified North American FIFA World Cup bid raises questions.

A lot will occur in the soccer world over the next nine years, so let's set the scene for the 2026 World Cup. There will be two World Cup tournaments played between now and then. In 2018, Russia will host the 32 team tournament in 12 venues across 11 cities. They beat out joint bids from Belgium/Netherlands and Portugal/Spain to earn the right to host. In 2022, Qatar (of all places) will host in eight or nine venues across seven cities. They ousted Australia, Japan, South Korea, and the United States along the way to being awarded the top bid. I won't get into the corruption that saw that happen. Now that you know where the tournament will have been located leading up to 2026, let's get back to the questions pertaining to the North American bid.

How many games will be played in each country?

Remember, in 2026 the FIFA World Cup expands to 48 teams from the current 32 team format. That means more games! According to CBC.ca, the bid includes a plan that would see 60 (or 75% of) matches played in stadiums across the United States. It also states that 10 (or 12.5% of) matches would be played in Mexico, and the other 10 matches in Canada. That clearly illustrates, to me, that Canada and Mexico were added to an American bid to strengthen it and to help avoid the potential embarrassment of losing another bid. I'll go out on a limb and say that's not likely to happen with World Cup bid rules banning bids from the Asia/Qatar (AFC) or Europe/Russia (UEFA) regions as a result of the next two world cups going to nations in those regions. That leaves open bids from any country inside the CONCACAF/North America, CONMEBOL/South America, OFC/Oceania, or CAF/Africa regions. I suppose a case could be made for some countries within those regions but, the fact is, none have been aggressive and stepped forward with a bid yet and that bodes well for the North American bid.

Which Canadian cities will be chosen as hosts?

This is the big one for me. Canada has hosted three FIFA tournaments recently so we have an idea of the potential host cities based on where those events were held. Will it be the usual suspects of Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, and maybe Hamilton, Edmonton, or Winnipeg? Or will they look at it based on suitable facilities and then include Ottawa and Regina (and likely Calgary by then) as a result? Only time will tell us which cities will host but if anyone important is reading this... consider this a bid for Regina! No actually don't because I don't make those calls. It sure would be nice to have an opportunity to be on the world stage as a World Cup host city and Saskatchewan is dying to be a destination for elite level soccer events.

I'll let up for now because I've already gotten way further ahead than I likely should have as this bid is in it's infancy and there are no guarantees that this bid will be a successful one. Very exciting day for The Voyageurs though and just this news itself somewhat raises the profile of Canada Soccer. Soccer fans can expect CONCACAF and MLS related articles on my blog in the future.

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