Without a doubt, yesterday will go down as the most significant day in Canadian soccer history. With a flamboyant election and celebration broadcast around the world, the FIFA congress officially elected to award the 2026 world cup to the North American bid of Canada, the U.S.A and Mexico.
Barring an unlikely change to the format, this all but guarantees a spot in the final tournament for Canada, a tournament that Canada has not qualified for since 1986, when Canada failed to score a goal on their way to three straight losses.
That means that for millions of Canadian children across the country, the dream to play for Canada’s national team now has new motivation. For generations of Canadian players, being a Canadian men’s national team member meant that low ranked friendlies and a Gold Cup were the best one could realistically hope for. Now there is a World Cup on the horizon being played in the cities that these kids hail from, a chance for them to shine on the world stage while billions watch.
Some would say that Canada did not get enough from this deal. Of the eighty games in the next FIFA World Cup, only ten of them are set to play in Canada. Mexico also get ten games, meaning the United States get a whopping seventy-five percent of the tournament, and all the games from the quarter finals on. I disagree with this assessment, simply because those people are kidding themselves if they think Canada had any chance to win this bid without teaming up with its neighbours.
The Canadian bid only includes three cities, a number that is considerably down from the countries 2015 Women’s World Cup. The voters in British Columbia decided not to participate, meaning the FIFA-sized B.C. place was left off the list of available venues.
Toronto, Montreal, and Edmonton would have been a terribly feeble bid by themselves, considering the 2026 tournament will be the first to be played at the expanded size of 48 teams. The Canadian Soccer Association smartly realized that they had no chance divided, and in an age where the three North American countries are finding it hard to agree on much, the associations got together and made the right decision.
And what a decision it was.
The influence the 2026 FIFA World Cup will have on the youth soccer scene in this country cannot be understated.
Canada is already the home to a thriving soccer community, but it is a community that is inherently focused on the nationalities of our familiar backgrounds. Growing up in Hamilton, each World Cup or Euro was an opportunity to wear your grandparent’s colours with pride and show where you and your family came from. My Italian friends would all wear their three (then four) starred jerseys in June, and my ‘fellow Englishmen’ would all mysteriously not show up to school on days where England played a game. For someone like me, the son of an Englishmen and Portuguese women, it meant TWO different opportunities to skip out on boring June school-days, as I prepared myself for heart-ache and braced myself for the inevitable family war that was Portugal vs. England. (It happened in 2004 and 2006 and resulted in penalties both times)
If you are reading this, you are no doubt a fan of ‘the beautiful game’ and have similar memories throughout your childhood. And while those memories are all well and good, they aren’t the same as the truly ‘Canadian’ memories. Memories like Sidney Crosby whipping his gloves to the ice and jumping for joy after “the Golden Goal”, or Christine Sinclair leaping into the air after an Olympic hat trick.
We will finally have a Canadian World Cup memory, something that is not owned by a few similarly dressed children in a classroom, but all of us. In 2026, Canadian soccer will truly be united, and there will be an additional team for each of us to skip school and work for.
It might be eight years away…but the World Cup has a funny way of sneaking up on you.
2026 will be here soon enough. And the U14 and U15 kids who are watching this tournament with admiring eyes will be in their early twenties when that tournament finally kicks off. Some of those kids will probably be on the team, playing in front of their home nation on the world’s biggest stage.
A dream that is now a reality.
For more analysis on Canada hosting the 2026 FIFA World Cup, and the 2018 World Cup group predictions, please check out thefanlife.com's latest podcast.
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Alex Taylor is a graduate of McMaster University, with degrees in Anthropology and History, and a minor in classics. Alex currently attends Sheridan College, where he is working on a Journalism diploma.
Alex is also a novel writer, having written a manuscript, and he is currently working on another (fiction)
Alex Taylor writes more frequently on his website, TheFanLife.net
Alex has also written a published paper while attending McMaster University: an academic journal piece on the depictions of aging in the media.
And avid sports fan, Alex Taylor will be starting a podcast soon (titled thefanlife. It will be on Soundcloud).