(Facebook/Canada Soccer)

Ottawa pledges $5 million for North American World Cup soccer bid

Friday deadline for joint Mexico-Canada-US bid to host soccer in 2026

The federal government officially threw its support behind the North American bid for the 2026 World Cup on Tuesday, with the promise of up to $5 million in immediate help should the unified bid win.

Canada, Mexico and the U.S. are up against Morocco to host the men’s soccer showcase. Their bid books go to FIFA at the end of the week with a decision to be made June 13 at the FIFA congress.

Tuesday’s announcement at BMO Field was the latest in a string of news events designed to show the bid is on track. Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Edmonton, identified as potential Canadian candidate cities, have already endorsed the bid.

The feds joined them Tuesday.

“It’s good for our athletes, it’s good for our communities, our economy, our reputation as an international sport leader,” said Kirsty Duncan, minister of science and minister of sport and persons with disabilities. “We are behind this bid.”

She said Ottawa will commit up to $5 million going forward should the bid win. Peter Montopoli, general secretary of the Canadian Soccer Association, said that money would be used during the transition period from when the bid is awarded to when FIFA essentially takes over running the tournament.

The federal government will also help with essential services such as security and border control as it did during the Women’s World Cup in 2015.

The unified bid plan calls for 10 matches in each of Canada and Mexico with 60 of the 80 games in the new expanded 48-team tournament format to be held in the U.S.

Montopoli noted that Canada has hosted every FIFA world championship save the men’s World Cup. Should the unified bid win, Canada would be the only country to have hosted them all.

“So in saying that, it is our time,” he added.

The new competition format will feature 16 groups of three with the top two from each pool advancing to a 32-team knockout. The tournament time period will remain at 32 days.

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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