By CAITLIN MURRAY
Canada is dreaming big. World Cup big.
The Canadian Soccer Association announced Thursday they intend to bid for the 2026 men’s World Cup as part of their 2014-18 strategic plan. If successful, it would be the first World Cup in North America since the U.S. hosted in 1994.
“Canadian soccer is growing up,” said CSA general secretary Peter Montopoli in a statement. “Expectations are higher. It is a sign that soccer in Canada is maturing, and an indication of its increasing relevance as the largest participation sport in Canada.”
Canada is slated to host the women’s World Cup in 2015, but its decision to play the final on artificial turf has been controversial. U.S. Women’s National Team star Abby Wambach and others have openly criticized the decision, calling it gender discrimination and a safety issue.
It’s unclear whether Canada’s bid for a men’s World Cup will include all grass fields, but a World Cup has never been played on artificial turf before. In 2010, South Africa hosted on grass fields that had been reinforced with synthetic fibers for a grass-turf hybrid.
While Canada has been climbing the ranks as a leader in women’s soccer, the nation does not have as much clout in the men’s game. The men are currently ranked 111th in the world and appeared in a World Cup just once, in 1986.
“While our international prominence in the women’s game has made significant inroads in the last several years,” the strategic plan reads, “our men’s program needs further investment and commitment so that we reach new heights in the global game. Hosting one of the most prestigious sporting events in the world will act as a catalyst for the growth of soccer in our country.”
U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati has said the U.S. would bid again if the process was transparent. The U.S. had pushed to host the World Cup in 2022, with the bid having the support of President Barack Obama and FIFA President Sepp Blatter, but lost to Qatar in a secret ballot.
Colombia and Mexico have reportedly already confirmed plans to bid for the 2026 World Cup.
What do you think of this news? Would Canada be a good host for the World Cup? Could they beat out countries like Colombia and Mexico? Should they use the same type of fields as they use for the women’s World Cup?
Share your thoughts below.