VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – It’s official: the biggest spectacle in the world of soccer is coming to Canada.
The “United Bid” of Canada, Mexico and the United States beat out Morocco to win the right to co-host the 2026 FIFA World Cup, marking the first time that international soccer’s marquee event will touch down on Canadian soil.
WATCH: Coach John Herdman reacts to the winning bid announcement
“It’s officially football Christmas for Canada,” John Herdman said with a large grin on his face after the official announcement was made. “It’s here. It’s one of those mornings you wonder if Santa’s going to come, and he absolutely did this morning. What a feeling, I think for everyone in this country.”
Talking about the legacy soccer — or football, depending on where you hail from in the world — Herdman says the sport brings people together in a community.
“I just ask every Canadian to unite around this one opportunity, this one vision. It’s a once in a lifetime thing. There are people who would kill for this opportunity for a World Cup to come to your town, your city, and it’s coming.”
But, none of the ten games allocated to Canada will be coming to Vancouver.
The provincial government nixed the idea last March.
Perry Solkowski with Sportsnet 650 explains the province’s decision came down to the financial risks.
“I think it was a problem of indemnification in making sure they would be able to be covered from a federal level, and didn’t want to put all the money in because there were some clauses in this original ‘United Bid’ that scared off. It scared off Vancouver, it scared off Chicago which was a host city in 1994, so the provincial government taking the safe road saying ‘we don’t want to offer it.'”
LISTEN: CONCACAF President Victor Montagliani joins Sportsnet 650’s James Cybulski and Perry Solkowski on the Starting Lineup
Premier John Horgan had said while he would liked to see World Cup men’s soccer come to BC, he wasn’t about to give FIFA a “blank cheque.”
Horgan was not available for comment following the winning bid announcement on Wednesday morning.
And while some are still holding out hope of the possibility 2026 could see some World Cup matches played at BC Place, the idea’s being shot down by CONCACAF’s president.
When asked whether he thinks there’s still hope things could change, and that FIFA soccer could come to Vancouver, Vic Montagliani says no.
“It’s not going to happen,” he tells Sportsnet 650’s Starting Lineup. “And the reality is it’s not about Vancouver, it’s about our country. And our country’s a little bit greater than any city, so. I love Vancouver, I’m from Vancouver, but you know what it’s about our country and it’s about the game of football, which is a lot bigger than any politician.”
So the answer right now, is no. But there’s still eight years to go.
“A lot of things can happen in eight years… I wanted it as well, but you know what, I didn’t make that decision. Somebody else did.”
That somebody else is Horgan, who we’re told was not available for comment in the hours following the winning bid announcement.
Looking forward, Montagliani says the next step — for Canada — is to narrow down the number of stadiums that could potentially host a game. “There’s 23 stadiums, we’ve got to get down to 16. So there’s a whole process there. What happens now is FIFA really comes in here.”
The three host countries will also be involved in getting the number down, something Montagliani says will take time.
Despite there not seeming to be a chance things could change for Vancouver, Solkowski is hearing there’s still some hope the city could get back in the game, so to speak.
However, if that doesn’t happen, he expects fans to hit the road to watch the World Cup in person.
“Soccer fans are unique. I’ve heard rumours of something up of 80 per cent of the tickets that have been sold for the Russia World Cup now are coming from North America. The money’s in North America. Soccer supporters just travel when it’s their opportunity to put on their national colours and go, so. With the game in our city, the growth of the fans, if you have to go to Seattle or you have to go over the mountains to Edmonton, soccer fans will embrace it, guaranteed.”
As part of the “United Bid”, the US is expected to host 60 matches, including all games from the quarter-finals through to the final. Canada and Mexico would each host 10 games.
This year’s FIFA World Cup will kick off on Thursday in Russia, as the host country takes on Saudi Arabia’s national team.
The next World Cup is set to be held in Qatar in 2022.