TORONTO — Potential host cities for the 2026 World Cup have got their marching orders for the next stage of the selection process.
Yahoo reported last week that U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro had sent a letter to the 17 potential U.S. candidate cities, outlining plan for selecting the 10 American venues expected to be used for the men’s soccer showcase.
A spokesman for the Canadian Soccer Association confirmed a similar letter has gone out to Edmonton (Commonwealth Stadium), Montreal (Olympic Stadium) and Toronto (BMO Field). Peter Montopoli, Canada Soccer’s general secretary, will oversee visits to the three potential Canadian venues this year with workshops also planned with the candidate cities.
The Canadian process will begin with the workshops later this month, with venue visits scheduled between March and November. Mexico is mounting a similar program.
The current blueprint calls for Canada and Mexico to host 10 games each with the U.S. hosting 60, including all games from the quarterfinals on.
FIFA will make the ultimate decision on “up to 16″ candidate cities from the list of 23 submitted by the North American joint bid. The bid group has been working under the premise of three cities in each of Canada and Mexico and 10 in the U.S.
Canadian officials say they will push to keep all three of their host cities.
Bid officials like the idea of having three games back-to-back-to-back on the opening day of the tournament, using BMO Field, Mexico City’s Azteca Stadium and the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.
Vancouver pulled out of the candidate city field after the B.C. government, citing concerns over the possible costs of being a host city, was unable to come to terms with the bid committee. Chicago and Minneapolis also withdrew, citing similar worries.
Asked about speculation in the Yahoo article that Vancouver could return to the fold at the expense of Edmonton, a Canada Soccer spokesman said: “Canada Soccer continues to work with FIFA and the candidate host cities in Montreal, Toronto, and Edmonton.
“Vancouver was not a candidate host city in the bid book presented to FIFA ahead of the vote to secure the rights to the 2026 FIFA World Cup,” he added.
The U.S. candidate cities are Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Cincinnati, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, New York/New Jersey, Orlando, Philadelphia, San Francisco Bay area, Seattle and Washington D.C.
The Mexico cities are Guadalajara, Mexico City and Monterrey.
According to the United Bid committee, the stadiums involved have an average capacity of more than 68,000.
The committee lists capacity for the Canadian host cities as 56,418 for Commonwealth Stadium, 55,822 for Olympic Stadium and 45,000 for BMO Field, which would require temporary seating to reach that number.
The 2026 tournament is being expanded to 48 teams from 32.
FIFA’s member associations voted 134 to 65, with one no-vote, in June 2018 in favour of the joint North American bid by Canada, the U.S. and Mexico over Morocco.
Canada failed in its lone previous bid — to host the 1986 tournament after Colombia pulled out as host. Mexico eventually hosted the tournament, which remains the only World Cup the Canadian men have ever qualified for.
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press