Football’s international governing body expressed encouragement on Wednesday ahead of Edmonton’s 2026 FIFA World Cup bid, but also noted that Commonwealth Stadium’s artificial pitch would have to go.
Colin Smith, FIFA’s director of events and competitions, was in Edmonton to witness Canada’s men’s team wins over Costa Rica last week and Mexico on Tuesday night.
The city’s fan support and event experience is clear, he said.
“The air is chilly. The atmosphere is so warm,” he said. “To see the support of the fans on a chilly evening was great.”
Smith spoke positively to reporters about the city’s bid and presentation earlier in the day, but noted that the artificial turf at Commonwealth Stadium was not up to World Cup standards.
“Let’s change it,” he said, when asked how to improve the pitch of the stadium. “We played the World Cup obviously on natural grass.”
“It’s about providing the ultimate stage for the ultimate players to play at the highest level.”
FIFA had previously said it would announce the host by the end of 2021 but now said it would complete the selection process in the first half of next year after a “thorough assessment”.
Today marks the start of a third round of potential site checks by Smith and other officials, followed by visits to Mexico City, Guadalajara, Los Angeles and Toronto over the next five days.
He said the inspections focused on factors including transportation, accommodation, stadiums and training locations.
“What we consider are the technical requirements that we need to have a successful World Cup.”
The league is expected to feature 48 extended teams with games spanning the United States, Mexico, and Canada.
The two Canadian venues under consideration are Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium and Toronto’s BMO Stadium.
Montreal’s Olympic Stadium was once part of the bid, but the city withdrew from the dispute in July.
The City of Edmonton launched a survey in August 2020 to measure how Edmonton residents feel about hosting part of the tournament.
Survey results show that 77% of people in the Edmonton area support a bid, the city said, up from 74% in 2018.
Vancouver withdrew as a potential host city in March 2018, citing concerns about cost and financial transparency.
FIFA will choose up to 16 venues to host the matches of the tournament.