Edmonton likely but not guaranteed to host 2026 World Cup games: ‘There’s more work to do’

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Edmonton likely but not guaranteed to host World Cup games in 2026
WATCH ABOVE: Edmonton is one step closer to hosting several FIFA 2026 World Cup matches, but Mayor Don Iveson said there are no guarantees just yet – Jun 13, 2018

Edmonton is one step closer to hosting up to four FIFA World Cup matches in 2026, but there are no guarantees just yet.

“We still have a great shot, though there’s more work to do to get to the finish line,” Mayor Don Iveson said.

On Wednesday morning, soccer’s international governing body voted in favour of a joint bid for the event by Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.

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

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Toronto, Montreal and Edmonton are the Canadian candidate host cities for the men’s soccer event. FIFA will select up to 16 host cities from the 23 candidates proposed in the North American bid.

“We know we have the best stadium in the country for hosting soccer,” Iveson said of the city’s chance of solidifying its place for the event.

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“The only wrinkle at this point is we still have to nail down provincial support. That’s essential for us to move through past 2020 and the final selection.”

Watch below: While the North American bid to host the World Cup of soccer in 20206 has been successful, it’s still not a certainty Edmonton will be a co-host. Quinn Ohler looks at what needs to be done and what happens if Edmonton is chosen.

Click to play video: 'Will Edmonton be a co-host for 2026 World Cup?'
Will Edmonton be a co-host for 2026 World Cup?

The Alberta government has previously said it will not throw its financial support behind the City of Edmonton in its bid to host the 2026 World Cup.

In a statement on Wednesday, Alberta Culture and Tourism Minister Ricardo Miranda said the province received an initial proposal for funding from the City of Edmonton, but it is awaiting a more detailed business plan that addresses the financial needs for a bid.

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“While things are looking up – our economy is growing, and people are returning to work – Albertans still expect their government to spend their money in a responsible way. We will work closely with the City of Edmonton and the federal government on this in the weeks ahead.”

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

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Iveson said the ask of the provincial government would be in the “low tens of millions” of dollars. The federal government has already confirmed its support.

“It’s not a huge order of magnitude compared to some of the other events that we’ve hosted in the past or that are being currently discussed,” Iveson said, referring to Calgary’s pursuit to host the 2026 Winter Olympics.

“In this case, the province has a key decision to make before we can move forward.”

READ MORE: Hosting part of 2026 FIFA World Cup to cost $35-$55 million: City report

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Iveson estimates the economic impact of hosting a few matches in Edmonton would be in the area of $170 million. He said the international exposure for the city would also be incredible.

“This would be certainly in the top tier of events the city has ever hosted. It’s a single-sport event, which is different from Universiade, Commonwealth Games that we’ve hosted but it’s in the mega-event category,” he said. “It’s a big one for sure.”

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Watch below: With the very real possibility now that Edmonton may host some games during the 2026 World Cup of soccer, a debate has started about how to better connect the city to its airport. Vinesh Pratap filed this report on June 14, 2018.

Click to play video: 'World Cup announcement sparks debate about better connecting Edmonton to its airport'
World Cup announcement sparks debate about better connecting Edmonton to its airport

‘My dream is to someday compete in the World Cup’

The North American bid beat out Morocco to host the 2026 event.

Ahead of the vote on Wednesday morning, Edmonton-raised soccer player Alphonso Davies — who plays on the Canadian men’s national soccer team — made an emotional speech about his dream of one day playing in the World Cup.

The 17-year-old soccer phenom was born in a refugee camp Ghana and said he was welcomed with open arms when he moved to Edmonton.

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“When I was five years old, a country called Canada welcomed us in and the boys on the football team made me feel at home,” he said.

“My dream is to someday compete in the World Cup, maybe even in my hometown of Edmonton.”

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Soccer guru Steven Sandor, colour commentator with FC Edmonton, expressed his excitement for Davies, should his dream of playing at Commonwealth Stadium come true.

“He’s not going to play here otherwise. I mean, he’s going off to a career in Europe next year — and a long career in Europe. So this will be his chance to play in front of his home fans,” he said of the young star.

“I think because he’s a soccer player, we haven’t really appreciated how phenomenal he is, that he is maybe the most phenomenal sporting talent our city has produced in a long time. And I think finally as a city here, we’re waking up to something the rest of the world has known for a while. I think people don’t realize how much Edmonton is recognized for this kid.”

Watch below: Canadian soccer star Alphonso Davies tells FIFA World Congress of his dream ahead of 2026 World Cup vote

Click to play video: 'Canadian soccer star Alphonso Davies tells FIFA World Congress of his dream ahead of 2026 World Cup vote'
Canadian soccer star Alphonso Davies tells FIFA World Congress of his dream ahead of 2026 World Cup vote

Commonwealth Stadium upgrades

In a report released earlier this month comparing United 2026 World Cup bid cities, Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium was ranked as the fifth-best stadium in the united bid.

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In order to comply with FIFA regulations, the stadium must have natural grass instead of artificial turf, which is currently in place at Commonwealth.

The city believes it will also further upgrade the facility to have two scoreboards and a new press box, among other mechanical and electrical upgrades. The stadium was built for the 1978 Commonwealth Games and by 2026, it will be pushing 50 years old.

“We already had some life cycle maintenance planned that we would do anyway,” said Roger Jevne, branch manager of recreational facilities with the city.

“We want to take advantage of the eight years we have between now and the World Cup. So we will want to host friendlies in the years leading up to it. We have a CFL schedule, concerts that we’d have to work around. But we’d look at the four years preceding where we’d do the bulk of the work.”

READ MORE: How Edmonton stacks up against the other United 2026 World Cup bid cities

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Where Edmonton fell a bit short compared to other potential host cities was around high-end hotel accommodations and transportation options. FIFA also expressed concern with Edmonton’s airport.

“We’ve always known that we’re a little bit light on the high-end for hotel rooms. But with the J.W. Marriot opening, a beautiful five-star property, that’s going to help. And that’s going to happen within the next year here.”

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With files from Jennifer Crosby and Scott Johnston. 

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