Montreal withdraws from 2026 FIFA World Cup consideration

The City of Montreal has withdrawn from the selection process to host some games of the 2026 FIFA World Cup, Canada Soccer announced Tuesday.

"We thank the City of Montreal for their participation in the bid process," the organization stated. "And look forward to continuing our collaboration with the respective municipal and provincial governments, along with the Government of Canada, in support of the selection of Edmonton, Alta. and Toronto, Ont. as host cities for the FIFA World Cup 2026."

The news comes as a disappointment to many, who say the city will be missing out on a big opportunity.

"It comes at a moment where dedication to sports and sports culture in the city is obvious. [Look] what's happening with the Canadiens... You can see what kind of buzz can be around Montreal when there's something huge related to sports," said Olivier Brett, RDS soccer host. "It is a huge missed opportunity and I was surprised to hear so little pressure coming from the rest of Canada to have Montreal in the mix."

The announcement comes months after the Quebec government announced it would not financially support Montreal's bid to co-host the biggest sports tournament in the world.

"We understand that the decision not to support the hosting of FIFA World Cup matches in 2026 may disappoint the City of Montreal and soccer fans," Quebec Tourism Minister Caroline Proulx told The Canadian Press in an email. "We would have been happy and ready to support the hosting of the FIFA World Cup in Montreal, but the high cost of the event was becoming difficult for us to justify to Quebec taxpayers."

According to Proulx, in less than three years, the estimated cost of the global event to the Quebec government has doubled, from $50 million to $103 million.

"In the current context, we consider that the priority remains to support Quebecers and businesses in times of pandemic and towards economic recovery," Proulx explained. "We continue to support the City of Montreal, in particular through investments specifically dedicated to tourism revival and by staying on the lookout for major events that will be win-wins for all parties."

The written decision was sent to the City of Montreal on Jan. 15.

"The withdrawal of the financial participation of the government of cost-sharing jeopardizes the Montreal candidacy - the only French-speaking city in the running," said Youssef Amane, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante's director of communications, at the time.

It hadn't yet been decided which games would have been played in Montreal, but soccer fans will now have to drive cross-country, or go to the U.S. or Mexico to catch a piece of history.

"When the news broke, I don't think anybody was really caught off guard or floored because the moment Quebec decided to pull its financing out, everybody knew there was a big, big issue," Brett said. "Having said that now, I think what did sink in is, 'I'm not going to see a match. I'm not going to see Alphonso Davies, or I'm not going to see some superstars.' ... I think that's the bit that hurts, right?"

The City of Montreal was identified in 2018 as a candidate to host some of the tournament's games.

The FIFA World Cup is expected to be held in June and July of 2026 in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

-- with files from The Canadian Press. 

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