Edmonton

Folding of FC Edmonton could scrub city from FIFA host list

The folding of FC Edmonton will likely kill Edmonton’s already slim chances of hosting the 2026 FIFA World Cup, suggests the team's colour commentator.

'It's a big kick to the knees to that World Cup process,' Steven Sandor says

Edmonton’s professional soccer team FC Edmonton has ceased operations immediately. (Steve Kingsman/Freestyle Photography)

The folding of FC Edmonton will likely kill Edmonton's already slim chances of hosting the 2026 FIFA World Cup, suggests the team's colour commentator.

"It's a big kick to the knees to that World Cup process," Steven Sandor said in an interview Monday with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.

"There might be one or two Canadian cities that might get games, and the competition is fierce, especially when a lot of the influence is going to come from major league soccer, because they're so intertwined with the bid."

Citing low attendance and a chronic lack of corporate sponsorship, FC Edmonton announced Friday that it was leaving the North American Soccer League and shutting down its professional franchise operations immediately.

The North American committee bidding for the right to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup has announced a total of 32 sites, including Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Edmonton, that could serve as official host cities for the event.

The four Canadian cities were among the locations announced in October, along with 25 cities in the United States and three in Mexico. 

 'It will be an uncomfortable question that someone's going to have to answer.'-Steven Sandor

The bid is led by the united bid committee, the muscle behind the push to have the world's largest sporting event split between three nations.

The North American bid is competing with Morocco for the right to host the elite 48-team tournament.

Despite Edmonton's ability to survive the first round of cuts in the bidding process, if the city can't support a professional soccer team, it will not be an attractive option.

The team's failure will hurt Edmonton's image as an international host city.

'Wait and see approach'

"I think in Edmonton, we need to kind of get over ourselves with the idea that we're big for events and we need to think more about how we support things week-to-week," said Sandor.

"We do wonderful with hockey, there's no doubt about it, we've supported a team that's struggled for a long time, but I think for that kind of thing, it will get brought up. It will be an uncomfortable question that someone's going to have to answer."

There is some possibility that FC Edmonton would be back to play with the Canadian Premier League, a new coast-to-coast professional soccer league that could begin play as early as 2018, but Sandor's hopes remain low.

"They're taking a very much a we'll-wait-and-see approach," he said.

"We need to see if we're going to revive this team — no matter what league we're going to play in —  if it's sustainable or not. And I think the message was a lot more dour than people were expecting.

"We will see if FC Edmonton does get revived … but I don't think it's a slam dunk that they will."

Listen to Edmonton AM with host Mark Connolly, weekday mornings at CBC Radio One, 93.9 FM in Edmonton. Follow the morning crew on Twitter @EdmAMCBC.