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Victor Montagliani has been working most of his life to helping grow the sport of soccer in Canada.
So seeing his hometown of Vancouver, along with Toronto, selected as host cities for the 2026 FIFA World Cup in the United States, Canada and Mexico was a source of great pride for the FIFA vice president and president of Concacaf.
Thursday in New York, FIFA announced the 16 cities that will stage games for the expanded 48-team World Cup tournament in 2026. A total of 11 venues in the United States, along with three in Mexico were selected to go with the two in Canada.
“Obviously, it was a great moment four years ago when we won the bid as a country, and (Thursday) is a bit more granular because we’re picking host cities and the two (Canadian) cities are obviously over the moon to be selected as host cities,” Montagliani, the former Canada Soccer president, said in a phone interview Thursday evening. “They all went through a process and it was a difficult decision to get down to the 16 that we did. We made that selection and we’re very happy with the two that we selected in Canada, and the 14 that we selected in the other two countries.”
The expanded tournament will feature 80 games, with the bulk being played in the United States. Canada and Mexico are expected to host upwards of 10 games each, although Montagliani said the process of allocating games for each venue has not begun.
“We’ve been pretty detailed just getting to here,” he said. “We’ll probably start that over the next few months. I’m not sure exactly when we’ll get there; I don’t want to even guess.”
The 16 cities were chosen from 22 finalists, which included Edmonton.
Despite playing host to numerous FIFA events at Commonwealth Stadium, such as the 2002 Under-19 Women’s World Championship, the 2007 Under-20 World Cup, the 2014 Under-20 Women’s World Cup and the 2015 Women’s World Cup, Edmonton did not make the cut.
“It’s not so much why Edmonton didn’t make the cut, it was more why others made the cut,” Montagliani said. “We could have honestly picked 22 cities and we would have been fine. But it’s not realistic, it’s not economically beneficial to the tournament, so we couldn’t do it.
“I totally understand and sympathize with the disappointment with all the cities that weren’t selected, but Edmonton is a great city; it’s a been a great soccer city to Canada and I know it has a role to play for 2026. We’ll be reaching out to these cities over the next four weeks to discuss that and see what roles that can be played. The opportunities are pretty immense outside the scope of playing games.”
Edmonton’s bid may have been hampered by Alberta provincial government’s delay in committing to their part of the financial requirements and then adding caveats to the funds, which included a guaranteed number of games for Commonwealth Stadium and elimination contests.
Montagliani said there were many factors considered when selecting cities to host the largest FIFA event to date. It’s the first time the World Cup will be held in three countries and feature 16 different venues.
“It’s not a silver bullet, there is no one determining factor, everybody put their best foot forward, everybody did a great job,” Montagliani said. “I think what happened was, when we looked at factors, facilities, geography, commercialization, those are the broad strokes, but at the end of the day, some these decisions came down to (Thursday) morning, because that’s how competitive it was. We had to get all the data points in, and we did, and made those decisions.”
Mexico City, Monterrey and Guadalajara were the only Mexican cities among the final candidates and all were chosen. Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, New York/New Jersey, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Seattle made the cut from the United States.
Mexico hosted the 1970 and 1986 World Cups, while the United States played host to the 1994 tournament. In 1970, the World Cup was a 16-team tournament. It had expanded to 24 teams by 1986 and 1994, then increased to 32 teams in 1998 in France.
The joint North American bid beat out Morocco for the right to host the 2026 tournament, which was announced on the eve of the 2018 World Cup in Moscow, Russia.
“It’s the first time ever (48 teams), so obviously it’ll be a challenge,” Montagliani said. “But it’ll also be a great opportunity to bring it to North America, where we’re used to hosting massive events, and this is the biggest of them all. It’s going to be a great challenge and a great opportunity for us.”
Part of the conditions for hosting games in Toronto is the expansion of BMO Field from a 30,000-seat facility to a minimum 40,000-seat stadium as required by FIFA standards. BC Place in Vancouver will also need to replace its artificial turf field with natural grass for the tournament.
Vancouver had initially dropped out as a candidate city when the provincial government at the time, refused to make the financial commitment to FIFA. A newly elected provincial government made the commitment, bringing Vancouver back into the fold.
Montagliani was president of the B.C. Soccer Association before joining Canada Soccer.
“First and foremost as a Canadian, I’m proud the World Cup is coming to the country,” Montagliani said. “The one thing about the World Cup is that is different that other events, like the Olympics — obviously Vancouver has hosted the Olympics — is that the World Cup is about a country and not just a city. So I’m proud about that.
“But being born and bred in Vancouver and having Vancouver as a host city, is a fantastic moment. I probably don’t realize it now, but I’ll realize it in 2026 how special a moment it is.”
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On Twitter: @DerekVanDiest