Edmonton is treating the qualifying games for the Canada World Cup as a test for 2026

EDMONTON — When Alphonso Davies spoke before the FIFA World Congress to support North America’s proposal to host the 2026 World Cup, he wanted part of the event to take place close to home.

“My dream is to someday compete in the World Cup, maybe even in my hometown of Edmonton,” said Davies, then 17 years old.

Canada, the United States and Mexico were ultimately awarded the World Cup and, three years later, Edmonton is one of two Canadian cities, along with Toronto, still in the running to host games.

As Edmonton once again centers the stage in the Canadian football community this week, hosting its second 2022 World Cup qualifier in five days, the city will also welcome a FIFA delegation led by CONCACAF President and FIFA Vice President Victor Montagliani. The group of 25 to 30 people will be among the nearly 50,000 attendees at Tuesday’s match against Mexico, and will take part in a visit at Commonwealth Stadium on Wednesday.

Janelle Janis, the director of Edmonton events at Explore Edmonton, said being a host city for a men’s World Cup is “the next natural step in Edmonton’s football journey.” The city has previously hosted successful events such as the under-19 women’s world championship in 2002, the under-20 men’s World Cup in 2007, the under-20 women’s World Cup in 2014 and the women’s World Cup in 2015.

“We can really use the 2026 FIFA World Cup as a catalyst for much more than just football,” Janis said.

Janis said Edmonton’s goal is to create some long-term legacies, such as growing the game for the next generation and implementing sustainable initiatives and human rights, to ensure the impact is greater than just hosting a football tournament. She believes Edmonton is leading the way in certain areas in the candidate process, especially when it comes to due diligence, by creating a 1,000-plus-page business plan detailing her case.

With more than four years to go before the 2026 World Cup, Janis said the long runway will give the city time to achieve its goals. There is extensive community support for the offer. A recent survey of the city showed that 77 percent of the Edmonton region supports the occupation.

One area where support is declining is from the provincial government, which has not yet made financial assistance to Edmonton’s bid. Montreal withdrew its offer to be a host city in July after the Quebec government withdrew its support.

Janis said the city has had positive conversations with the Alberta government. And when FIFA announces host cities as early as the first quarter of next year, she said it would be prudent to have all the financial parties before that.

Canadian fans wave the flag for the men's national football team during a World Cup qualifier in Edmonton on Friday.  More than 48,000 filled Commonwealth Stadium on a cool night.

“Hopefully they’ll see, especially with the qualifying matches we host (Friday) and Tuesday, how much the Alberta community really wants it, because not only Edmontonians will be at the games,” Janis said.

Canadian defender Sam Adekugbe, who grew up in Calgary, knows this well.

“I think Alberto is underestimated because of how passionate their fans are when it comes to sports,” he said Friday, after more than 48,000 people showed up to watch Canada defeat Costa Rica.

Twenty-two candidate cities are competing to host games during the 2026 World Cup, including three in Mexico and 17 U.S. Sixteen cities are expected to be selected. Montagliani’s delegation will also tour Mexico City, Guadalajara, Los Angeles and Toronto next week.

Janis believes Edmonton is ready to arrange a show for the delegation. That they take part in Tuesday night’s marquis match against Mexico is an added advantage.

“It’s just a taste of how it will be in 2026,” she said. “But 2026 will be a little warmer, so that’s going to be nice.”

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