Edmonton has joined Montreal and Toronto as the Canadian cities involved in a North American bid to host the 2026 World Cup of soccer.
The bid, called United 2026, marks the first time three countries (Canada, the United States and Mexico) have teamed up to bid for a World Cup. If successful, the bid would give Canada its first chance to host games as part of the men's tournament.
"Supporting United 2026 is an important component of our government's commitment to investing in communities, so that fans of all ages can connect, be inspired and share in the unique experience of a World Cup," Amarjeet Sohi, the minister of infrastructure and communities, said at a news conference in Edmonton on Friday.
The Edmonton games would be played at Commonwealth Stadium, where the artificial turf would be replaced with natural grass and private boxes would be upgraded.
The federal government contributed $5 million to the bid process.
The Alberta government didn't contribute any funding for the bid, citing a lack of information about what kind of impact the World Cup would have on taxpayers
"The province has made the difficult decision to not commit to funding support for the City of Edmonton's participation in a joint North American bid for the 2026 FIFA Men's World Cup at this time," said Ricardo Miranda, minister of culture and tourism.
The province's lack of financial support for the bid wasn't a concern for Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson.
"As all of this becomes clearer to the province, I'm still optimistic that they'll come in," Iveson said. "So they haven't said a hard no. They've just said they're not ready to commit yet, and we've got options to revisit the bid if we can't get support from the province before a critical time. And there's still lots of time."
Improving Canadian game
The Canadian men's national team hasn't competed in the World Cup since 1986.
"I think one of the deficiencies in Canadian soccer is that we haven't had a professional league here," said Steven Reed, president of Canada Soccer.
"I think that's one of the factors that determines success on the international stage. Obviously we're working on that.
Canada has a good track record in hosting the Women's FIFA event, which took place in 2015 with games held in six cities across the country.
The 1.35 million spectators who attended competition pumped nearly $500 million into the economy, the federal government said in a news release.
The United 2026 bid faces stiff competition from Morocco to win the right to host the World Cup.
FIFA is expected to announce its decision on June 13.