‘A dream come true’: U of G coach praises Canada’s successful World Cup bid

Carlos Cordeiro, co-chairman of the Canada–Mexico–United States 2026 FIFA World Cup bid and president of the United States Soccer Federation speaks after the bid won the vote to host the 2026 World Cup at the 68th FIFA Congress in Moscow, Russia. EPA / FELIPE TRUEBA

The University of Guelph men’s soccer coach says Canada’s successful joint bid with the United States and Mexico for the 2026 World Cup could not have come at a better time.

Keith Mason says hosting one of the biggest events on the planet is a dream come true for all Canadian soccer fans and for a nation with a growing football culture that now has three Major League Soccer teams, including last season’s champions, Toronto FC.

READ MORE: Toronto mayor John Tory says 2026 World Cup a ‘good investment’

“The impact of us hosting the World Cup in 2026 cannot be underestimated,” Mason said in a phone interview after FIFA’s member associations voted in favour of the bid. “The most important benefit will be the impact on a generation of players in our country.”

Story continues below advertisement

“The kids that play now, they have something to strive for, something to dream about and something to work for,” Mason said.

The vote took place Wednesday at the FIFA Congress in Moscow and the United Bid convincingly defeated the bid from Morocco 134-65 with one no-vote.

The plan calls for Canada and Mexico to host 10 games each, with the U.S. hosting 60. Edmonton, Toronto and Montreal are candidates as host cities for the tournament that will be expanded to 48 teams for the first time.

FIFA will select 16 host cities at a later date.

BELOW: Keith Mason speaks with CJOY News reporter Matt Carty on Canada’s successful bid for the 2026 World Cup

Mason said the introduction of the Canadian Premier League (CPL) in April 2019 will only help develop Canadian soccer players ahead of the 2026 World Cup.

Story continues below advertisement

The league is expected to have eight to 10 teams across the country and have a minimum quota of Canadian players on each roster.

“That’s going to give seven or eight years of development leading up to the World Cup 2026 and give a platform for our top players to play,” Mason said.

As head coach of the Gryphons, Mason said recruiting has become a bit easier, given the recent popularity of soccer in Canada.

“More kids want to stay in Canada, too,” he explained. “That’s another factor the CPL is bringing to the table. A lot of kids always had the thought [that] to move to the next level, they had to move the States, but now a lot more are staying home and they see the pathway.”

Canada has only ever competed in a single World Cup in 1986. The team did not score a goal and finished last in their group.

Whether or not Canada automatically qualifies for the 2026 tournament as a host nation is still up for FIFA to decide, but Mason would not be surprised if the team qualifies for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

READ MORE: Canada, U.S. and Mexico will host 2026 FIFA World Cup

Story continues below advertisement

He said that coach John Herdman, who led the Canadian women’s team to a gold medal at the 2011 Pan Am Games and a pair of Olympic bronze medals, has a proven track record of success.

“He’s basically starting from the beginning and starting with youth, and giving them a chance in four years’ time,” Mason said. “If we can make the 2022 World Cup, what an amazing platform that would be for us to build for hosting the next one after that.”

Two Canadian players to keep an eye on over the next eight years are 17-year-old Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Alphonso Davies and 18-year-old forward Liam Millar, currently in Liverpool FC’s system.

— With files from The Canadian Press

Sponsored content