Canada wins bid to co-host 2026 World Cup but work still to be done on and off the field

Canada, in a joint bid with the United States and Mexico, has won its bid to co-host the FIFA World Cup in 2026. This is great news for Canadian soccer and a great opportunity to grow the sport in the country.

Ottawa, however, will not be among the final sixteen host cities;Toronto, Montreal and Edmonton are the only Canadian cities still eligible out of a possible twenty-three to be selected.

The continental North American World Cup will be the first of its kind and is expected to be expanded to 48 teams from 32. The only previous co-hosted World Cup was when South Korea and Japan joined forces in 2002.

Why not Ottawa?

Ottawa has hosted FIFA soccer events in the past, the U-20 World Cup in 2002 and Women’s World Cup in 2015, with great success, but these tournaments were much smaller in scale compared to what is expected of the men’s tournament in 2026.

Even with the introduction of the LRT and the recent expansion to TD Place and the surrounding Lansdowne area, major infrastructural improvements would still have to be made to make Ottawa ready to welcome thousands of visitors from all over the world.

Vancouver withdrew its bid because of the massive financial toll expected to improve infrastructure and upgrade facilities in order to be one of the host cities.

With the great honor that comes with hosting the World Cup comes the great financial burden. Per the CBC, “Toronto municipal officials have estimated it would cost the city between $30 million and $45 million to host three to five World Cup games, including potential stadium upgrades at BMO Field.”

Still, it is a slight disappointment Ottawa cannot take part in the multi-cultural extravaganza that is the World Cup, but the city will be a potential location for team camps and surely will be a buzz throughout the tournament.

A golden opportunity to develop the sport

The growth of the sport in North America and Canada specifically is ever growing, evidence from TV viewing numbers of European soccer leagues and attendance numbers for MLS matches.

Canada’s men’s national team will qualify for its first World Cup in 40 years in 2026, assuming Canada fails to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

With the World Cup coming to Canada, Canadian soccer has a great opportunity to make a permanent impact on Canadians across the country, like how the 1994 World Cup in the United States has helped develop the sport in its own country.

For this to happen, the product on the field will need to inspire the nation with displays of hard work and dedication, but also with talent and skill.

Positive steps are already being made. For example, the Canadian Premier League, a national Tier 1, FIFA-sanctioned soccer league that will begin its inaugural season in 2019, will be a fantastic resource for the Canadian men’s soccer team. CanPL’s modus operandi is to provide an opportunity for Canadian soccer players to play professionally and will enforce minimum quotas of Canadian soccer players on teams’ rosters.

As well, distinct Canadian soccer projects, like at Ottawa Fury FC led by, Canada’s most capped player, General Manager Julian de Guzman and Head Coach Nikola Popovic, are great signs for the future of the sport.

Under de Guzman, Ottawa Fury has focussed on giving Canadian talent an opportunity with a roster of 27 players of which 16 are Canadian.

The group of players that will represent Canada in 2026 are currently in their early-twenties or late-teens. We know some of their names already, but it will be the names of the players that we don’t yet know, who develop in the CanPL and at projects like Ottawa Fury in the forthcoming years, that will determine whether the 2026 World Cup is a success for Canada.