MONTREAL — Canadian soccer fans hoping to watch the World Cup on home turf are going to have to wait — for at least another two decades.
The Canadian Soccer Association cited a variety of reasons why it couldn’t hope to host the event before 2034, at the earliest.
Among them is the expectation that the United States will land the 2018 or 2022 event, while other continents will also get to host it as it rotates from one region to another.
“We would have to wait for our turn,” said the CSA’s general secretary Peter Montopoli, who has worked as a general co-ordinator at the current tournament in South Africa.
Those comments poured cold water on a news report Monday that suggested a federal politician was working to bring the World Cup to Canada.
There are other considerable obstacles to Canada hosting the event, beside geography.
They include infrastructure and the country’s on-field performance.
As a minimum requirement to secure the world’s biggest sporting event, Canada would need billions in government investments and 10 stadiums that hold around 50,000 people each, Montopoli said.
Canada would fall short on stadiums alone.
“Currently, yeah for sure,” said Montopoli, who added that Canada had only preliminary discussions about co-hosting a men’s World Cup with its neighbours to the south.
“The United States . . . have 10 stadiums alone in the state of California that they could hold this tournament in.”
Another obstacle could be Canada’s No. 63 world ranking, which places it one spot ahead of Montenegro and one behind Macedonia. South Africa — the current host — is ranked 83rd.
FIFA, the sport’s governing body, has already suggested Canada would have a better chance of hosting the World Cup if its national team had a reasonable shot of advancing past the first round.
Still, Montopoli says there’s no shortage of passion for the game in Canada, where more people play soccer than any other sport — including hockey.
Canada also displayed its affection for the sport three years ago when it hosted the FIFA under-20 men’s World Cup.
Canadians packed stadiums across the country for a tournament that still ranks as the most-attended FIFA event ever, outside of the men’s World Cup.
Canada is also a strong candidate to win the race to host the 2015 women’s World Cup, Montopoli said.
“We’ve had great discussions so far with FIFA,” he said, adding the country finished second in bidding for the 2011 women’s event.
A media report Monday indicated that Liberal MP Denis Coderre was working on a plan to lure the men’s tournament to Canada.
The former minister of sport downplayed his role in any such project. But he said he believes it can happen.
“I think it’s feasible,” Coderre said Monday when asked about the report in Montreal La Presse newspaper.
“I had a plan (as minister), the plan is still valid. . . (But) I’m not the minister of sports anymore.”
Canadian experts say there’s still plenty of work to do.
Sandro Grande, a soccer player from Montreal who once played in the Italian league alongside the great Roberto Baggio, thinks it would be tough for Canada to get the men’s World Cup.
“I seriously hope that they do,” Grande, 30, said in an interview from Lithuania, where he plays for a pro club.
“The thing is, we don’t have the facilities in Canada, that’s the problem right now.
“There’s a long way to go.”
Another key to attracting the men’s World Cup is to develop the game from the grassroots up.
The former Montreal Impact player, who has suited up for Canada’s national team 13 times, predicts the growth of Major League Soccer across the country will improve the quality of the sport played by Canuck kids.
Canadian children and their parents see the career possibilities for elite hockey players up close, while pro soccer appears to be out of reach, he said.
“Why do they do it with hockey? It’s because they see the NHL and they think, ’Wow, we can make something of this, we can get there,’ ” said Grande, who played one game for Brescia of Italy’s first division.
“The mentality is totally different.”
To develop its youth, the Canadian Soccer Association has started to introduce a long-term plan to better educate coaches, players and volunteers across a number of age groups.
“Canada has great organizational ability to host a FIFA men’s World Cup, as it has for a Summer Olympics and two Winter Olympics, so certainly, from a Canadian perspective, we would be great hosts for a men’s World Cup,” Montopoli said.