TORONTO — The chance to co-host the 2026 World Cup is an opportunity to put Canada on the world stage, politicians said Wednesday after soccer’s international governing body voted in favour of a joint North American bid for the event.
Toronto, Montreal and Edmonton are all candidates cities for games at the tournament that will be hosted by Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.
"It’s an opportunity to bring the world together and highlight how well things work between Canada, Mexico and the United States," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said of the bid approved by FIFA, which came amid complex trade negotiations between the countries.
Toronto’s mayor noted that Canada had little chance of hosting the international soccer tournament on its own, but will now reap the benefits resulting from its participation in the joint bid.
"It really is a once-in-a-generation opportunity," John Tory said. "This is a good investment for tourism, a good investment for sports, a good investment to put Toronto on the map."
FIFA will select up to 16 host cities from the 23 candidates proposed in the North American bid. Canadian officials have said they will push to have games played in all three of their host cities.
Tory said co-hosting would cost Toronto an estimated $30 million, which would be split between the three levels of government, but he did not provide an estimated dollar value for the expected return on investment.
A spokesman for Ontario’s incoming premier said Doug Ford is looking forward to the prospect of hosting games in the province, but did not respond to questions about funding.
Federal Minister of Sport Kirsty Duncan touted the benefits of hosting the games.
"This opportunity will allow the government of Canada to continue playing a crucial role in the development and success of athletes at an international level," she said in a statement.
"Moreover, this event will potentially provide Canadian athletes the opportunity to play on home soil, allow Canada’s soccer communities to grow and inspire our next generation of athletes."
Duncan noted that the federal government has pledged up to $5 million to support planning around the event.
Meanwhile, Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante said she is thrilled the joint bid was successful.
"It’s excellent news," she told the city’s executive committee on Wednesday. "I’m very enthusiastic and soccer fans, and sports fans in general and everyday citizens are very favourable to this announcement. They see great potential."
In Edmonton, Mayor Don Iveson’s excitement was tempered with realism. He noted more has to happen before the Alberta capital makes the cut of host cities by 2020.
"Overall we scored solidly in the bid and we know we have the best stadium in the country to host soccer," he said.
Iveson said host cities need between about $30 to $50 million to cover transportation and security costs and other improvement, and that he is looking for provincial money to help support that bid.
Canada failed in its lone previous World Cup bid — to host the 1986 tournament after Colombia pulled out as host. That remains the only World Cup the Canadian men have ever qualified for.
Mexico has twice hosted the World Cup, in 1970 and 1986. The U.S. hosted in 1994.