The FIFA representative leading the review of candidate cities for the 2026 World Cup says Edmonton, Montreal and Toronto are the only sites under consideration in Canada.
Asked on a media conference call Monday whether Vancouver might get back in the picture, Colin Smith said FIFA was focused on the original three Canadian candidate cities.
“Those are the three cities that bid so those are the three cities that we are evaluating and discussing with,” said Smith, FIFA’s chief tournaments and events officer.
Smith said the same when asked whether Chicago might be added to the 17 American cities under consideration.
“We’ve got 17 fantastic cities and there’s a great depth there right the way across the U.S. and we’re looking forward to making the selection from those 17 cities,” he said.
The B.C. government said in March 2018 it was not prepared to have Vancouver serve as a host city because of cost concerns. B.C. Premier John Horgan reiterated that stand three months later, saying his government wasn’t willing ”to write a blank cheque.”
Vancouver’s B.C. Place Stadium was a major part of the 2015 Women’s World Cup, hosting nine matches including the final.
Chicago took itself out of the 2026 candidate city running in March 2018, saying FIFA had not been able to provide necessary assurances.
Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. were selected over Morocco to host the 2026 tournament on June 13, 2018, by the 68th FIFA Congress in Moscow.
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.
Mexico’s candidate cities are Guadalajara, Mexico City and Monterrey.
The 2026 tournament has been expanded to 48 teams, up from 32, with 80 games in total. The organizing committee’s blueprint is for Canada and Mexico to host 10 games each with the U.S. hosting 60, including all games from the quarterfinals on.
FIFA is looking to choose “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.
It marks the first time three countries have been selected to co-host the World Cup and the first time the tournament will be played in North America in 32 years.
Smith is holding a virtual workshop with representatives from the U.S. candidate cities on Tuesday.
His FIFA delegation met with Canada Soccer and representatives from the three Canadian candidate cities in Toronto on March 12, the date when many sports league ground to a halt due to the global pandemic.
The FIFA delegation had met with representatives from the three Mexican candidate cities prior to that. The U.S. portion of the trip was postponed due to COVID 19-related travel restrictions that looked to keep some candidate cities from attending.
The workshops will be followed by venue visits in the three countries, although timing of those remains uncertain due to COVID-19.
Smith said the initial plan was to finalize the host city selection process in the spring of 2021. That has been pushed back by the pandemic and Smith said timing on the final host city announcement won’t be known until later in the year.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 6, 2020.
Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press