Central Alberta soccer fans are buzzing with excitement at the chance to see one of the most-watched sporting events in the world so close to home.
Canada will co-host the FIFA World Cup in 2026 with the United States and Mexico, it was announced on Wednesday.
Potential host cities include Edmonton, Montreal and Toronto.
Kevin Clark, a coach for the U11 Red Deer Renegades team in the Central Alberta Soccer League, said his soccer crazy family would love to catch some action-packed games in Edmonton.
“In 2026 the excitement level in the country is going to be something we haven’t experienced before, obviously hockey is on a different level, but soccer will get there as well,” said Clark.
The Red Deer resident, originally from England, moved to Canada about 11 years ago. The soccer fan has seen many live soccer in England, but not too many in Canada. The family will also catch the World Cup games in Russia on TV, which starts Thursday.
Clark said soccer is a growing sport in Canada and by the time 2026 comes around, the love for the game will grow even more – especially among the youth.
Paul Morigeau, a former president of the Red Deer City Soccer Association, echoed Clark’s thoughts. He said the sporting event will inspire young players.
“It’s something they can see first hand, even kids who are in minor soccer right now – in eight years – can be on the Canadian National team,” said Morigeau.
Like Clark, he plans to catch the live games as well.
“It’s just up the road in Edmonton so I’ll be there. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said the Red Deerian.
Penhold resident Glen Aldi said the news is “awesome for the soccer (community) in Canada.”
“It will be really something else to have it here in Canada, for all our cities,” said Aldi.
Like Clark and Morigeau, Aldi believes the World Cup will inspire young soccer players all over the country.
“They can literally see it – it will be on Canadian soil – hopefully the Canadian team will be part of it,” said Aldi, a referee for the Central Alberta Men’s Soccer League.
Both Clark and Aldi agreed it will be easier and less expensive for families to purchase game tickets.
“Hopefully having it in our own backyard will generate a lot of interest,” said Aldi, managing partner at Eurosport in Red Deer.
Clark said tickets to soccer games are “inflated” in countries like the U.K., much like the case with hockey in Canada. His hope is ticket prices remain “family-friendly” when FIFA comes to Canada.