June 13, 2018 1:11 pm
Updated: June 13, 2018 2:09 pm

Lenarduzzi ‘disappointed’ Vancouver won’t be in World Cup, but says bid is bigger than cities

Vancouver soccer great and Whitecaps President Bob Lenarduzzi talks to Paul Haysom about North America's successful bid to host the 2026 World Cup


The president of the MLS Vancouver Whitecaps says he’s disappointed Vancouver won’t be a part of the 2026 World Cup, but that Canada’s host role is bigger than its cities.

“I can only say that I’m absolutely disappointed that Vancouver won’t be a part of the 2026 World Cup, given that I’ve spent the amount of time that I have in the sport, and what a great opportunity that would have been to see it in your own backyard,” Bob Lenarduzzi told CKNW’s The Jon McComb Show.

LISTEN: Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi on Canada as a World Cup host

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“But I also believe Canada getting the World Cup overrides the cities that will or won’t be participating.

“I’m excited that that’s the case. And I don’t have enough information to know why they made the decision that they made, but they made it and we’re better moving on at this stage because it’s not coming to Vancouver.”

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

B.C.’s NDP government pulled Vancouver from the united North American bid for the tournament over concerns the contract with FIFA amounted to a “blank cheque” and that soccer’s governing body hadn’t provided enough certainty about costs.

Chicago and Minneapolis also both pulled out citing similar concerns.

WATCH: Carl Valentine on the 2026 World Cup coming to North America

Lenarduzzi said with or without Vancouver, co-hosting the event will be an important step for Canada’s growing soccer community, which he said is undergoing a renaissance.

“The fact that we have the opportunity to be a part of a World Cup that’s still eight years away, and benefit from the buildup to 2026… the sport is in a growth spurt right now, at the professional and the registration level,” he said.

READ MORE: More cities follow Vancouver out the door on FIFA World Cup bid

“There’s more people playing soccer than any other sport in Canada, so it’s only going to benefit the game. And ideally along the way we can qualify for a World Cup in 2022 and get a precursor to what it’s going to look like in 2026.”

Because it is co-hosting with two other countries, it is not yet clear if Canada will get the traditional automatic host-country qualification for the 2026 tournament. Traditionally, host countries are automatically in the tournament, which would ensure that the Canadian Men’s soccer team would be playing in the World Cup.

READ MORE: Vancouver to watch from the sidelines following 2026 FIFA World Cup announcement

WATCH: Canada, U.S., and Mexico united bid selected to host 2026 FIFA World Cup

Lenarduzzi said with the World Cup expanding to 48 teams for the 2026 challenge, there is “no reason” why all three host teams should not be given a place.

Canada’s men’s national team has only qualified once for the World Cup, in 1986.

READ MORE: Federal government officially throws support behind unified 2026 World Cup bid

Lenarduzzi was a member of that squad, and said it is among his most cherished sports memories.

“I think the feeling that you’re playing with the best in the world… Here we are on the world stage, and I’m of Italian descent, and my relatives in Italy are contacting my parents here to say, ‘Wow, we just saw Bobby playing,'” he said.

While Vancouver won’t host any of the World Cup games, Edmonton, Montreal and Toronto remain a part of the bid.

Forty-eight teams will compete in 80 games — 60 of them will be played in 10 U.S. cities, while Canada and Mexico will each host 10.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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