On the eve of Russia 2018, the news today is that FIFA awarded the 2026 World Cup to the “United” bid of the USA, Mexico and Canada! The United bid beat Morocco by a 2-1 margin. Shown here are the cities still in the running to host the World Cup — I understand not all these cities shown on the map will be getting games. This is big news for soccer in Canada; unlike the USA and Mexico we have never hosted the soccer World Cup before, although we did host the women’s World Cup not long ago.
It will most definitely be a huge boost to the game in this country, because for all the recent progress lately, what with Toronto FC winning the MLS Cup and so on, the reality is Canada is still considered a soccer “emerging market”. Right now, interest still seems concentrated in the major Canadian cities, especially ones full of “New Canadians.”
But out in sticks, those fans still insist on pledging their undying allegiance to the National Hockey League, even though this league is ridiculously expensive to watch in person and has not produced a Canadian-based Stanley Cup winning championship team in a quarter century.
And for some reason, folks in Saskatchewan are more interested in the Canadian Football League, muchto the befuddlement of the other nine hockey-loving provinces of Canada. No doubt, sports fans here, and our sports media, are far more interested in the CFL season starting tomorrow as opposed to the first game of the World Cup happening in Russia on the very same day. It’s weird.
So soccer still had some work to do to become more mainstream in this country. Having the World Cup on Canadian soil, even if it is just a few games in Toronto, Montreal and Edmonton, will help to convert new fans. It would help even more if Team Canada was included in the field, but now I’ve been reading they might not even get an automatic bid because the team has been so bad for years. They haven’t qualified for a World Cup since Mexico 1986!
The bottom line is this news today gives soccer fans in this part of the word something to look forward to. They are certainly not looking forward to Russia 2018, because most of Canada’s favorite teams (ie. Italy) were knocked out of qualifying, and the USA was also knocked out during qualifying. But Canada’s favorite vacation destination, Mexico, made it. I guess one out of three ain’t bad.
Update: for those tuning in the World Cup in Canada, the full schedule for TSN is here.