Montreal part of winning bid to host 2026 World Cup
City likely to hold 3 or 4 games as part of winning North American bid for men's soccer
Montreal is part of the winning 2026 World Cup bid for men's soccer. The city is one of three in Canada that is likely to host games during the tournament.
"This is a big major step for Canadian soccer," said Patrice Bernier, a former captain for the Montreal Impact and the national team.
Bernier, a native of Brossard, Que., is hopeful exposure to soccer's highest level of play will "boost" participation at both the recreational level and in the national program.
The specifics of how many games will be played in Montreal and how much it will cost taxpayers, however, remain unclear.
Member associations voted Wednesday at the FIFA Congress in Moscow in favour of the North American bid over that of Morocco.
The current blueprint calls for Canada and Mexico to stage 10 games each, with the U.S. to host 60. A total of 10 games in Canada could be divided between Montreal, Edmonton and Toronto — pending final approval from FIFA.
The Montreal games would be held at the Olympic Stadium.
Costly upgrades required
Michel Labrecque, president of Olympic installations board, said major upgrades will be required to ensure the field, lighting and security meet FIFA requirements.
Labrecque said the aim is to have the games played with the roof open on natural grass. He said it was too early to put a price tag on the upgrades.
The Quebec government last year announced the stadium will have a new $250-million roof by 2023.
Labrecque pointed out that the Olympic Stadium has already played host to the women's World Cup and the FIFA U-20 World Cup.
Rosannie Filato, the city councillor for sports and recreation on Montreal's executive committee, said the projected cost of hosting the games is $69 million, not including improvements to the stadium.
The federal and provincial governments will cover about 65 per cent of that amount, she said.
Filato projects the tournament will bring $200 million to the city and, she said, untold social benefits.
"On a social level, our youth, we're trying to get them active and moving," she said.
Mayor Valérie Plante signalled her approval on Twitter early Wednesday. Denis Coderre, who was mayor when the bid was put forward, also sent out a congratulatory tweet.
Vancouver recently opted out of the World Cup bid out of concern it would be too costly.
Lisa Beare, the province's minister of tourism, arts and culture, said in May such an event comes "with potential risks, so we're looking at those risks and going to make a decision that's in the best interest of B.C. taxpayers."
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