Make No Mistake: The 2022 and 2026 World Cups Are Huge for Canadian Soccer
When the World Cup first came to North America 28 years ago, hopes were high among soccer fans that it would act as a catalyst for growing the game for years to come. Of course, those behind the scenes also felt “USA ‘94” would be a massive revenue earner. And while it was, the dreams of bringing a new dawn to soccer in the United States were never realized.
Almost three decades later, similar questions are being asked about Canadian soccer. A first FIFA World Cup since the 1980s beckons in November, when the Canadian Men’s Team will head to Qatar. And then, four summers from now, Canada will co-host the World Cup with the USA and Mexico. As you might be aware, Montreal had initially entered the bidding process to be a host city for the 2026 World Cup (organizers were hoping to use the Olympic Stadium) but later dropped out of the bid.
Toronto and Vancouver will be host cities
Toronto and Vancouver have been selected as host cities. And while that might seem quite remote if you are based in Montreal, it remains a special experience when your country hosts a World Cup. It’s not an exaggeration to say that it’s once in a lifetime opportunity for fans and, crucially, potential fans of the game.
Of course, the Canadian team has business in Qatar long before we can all start dreaming of 2026. The World Cup football betting odds suggest that Canada has little chance of winning the famous trophy, but a decent run in the tournament is not beyond this talented young team. Getting out of a tough Group F, which features tough opponents in Belgium, Croatia, and Morocco, will be a tall order, but it’s not unthinkable that coach John Herdman can lead his team into the knockout phases.
Earlier we mentioned the 1994 World Cup in the USA. Back in the 1990 World Cup in Italy, the US men’s team had a disappointing campaign, finishing last in their group and losing every game. As such, there was little momentum going into the ’94 World Cup. There was little expectation among home fans, as the US had done little in the intervening years to warrant any belief. In the end, the US team did well in its home tournament, reaching the Last 16 stage before losing out to the eventual champions, Brazil.
A young team can grow alongside the fanbase
But our point, as such, is that those interested in growing soccer in Canada can view the next couple of World Cups as more than two separate events. They should be viewed as part of a multi-year journey for this Canadian team, and the support network that holds up the game in the country. Young players like Alphonso Davies should be reaching their peak in the coming years, and soccer fandom and participation can grow with them.
For sure, much of this might seem easier said than done. We should remind you that Canada has never won a game at a World Cup Finals before, and Qatar will only be the second time in history that the team has participated in the main event. But there is a chance to build a legacy for Canadian soccer across the 2020s, and it might be a longer-lasting one than what was hoped for in the 1990s in the United States.