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Wileman: Could Canada host the FIFA World Cup?

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Luke Wileman
5/7/2012 3:47:34 PM
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Is it really a possibility? Could Canada host the FIFA World Cup? It seems a very long shot, but as a soccer fan there's no harm in dreaming. So when FIFA President Sepp Blatter told me in Ottawa on Friday that he believes the the country is ready for such a big event, some of the obstacles that seem to prevent that happening appeared to get slightly smaller.

Blatter was in Ottawa to announce the host cities for the 2015 Women's World Cup which is being played in Canada. He said he sees no reason why the country couldn't be successful with a bid for the FIFA World Cup in 2026, and believes hosting the Women's tournament could be a stepping stone towards that.

Despite the criticism he receives from all corners of the globe, Blatter is a wise man. He knows exactly what to say when visiting a country and with his politician-like responses he fit right in on Parliament Hill. So we shouldn't get too excited just yet.

"Canada was very close as a candidate in the last stage for the 1986 World Cup along with the United States and Mexico," said Blatter when we chatted in the House of Commons following the announcement. "Canada was close then, but that would have been premature.

"Now with the Women's World Cup in 2015, with the new stadia they have in Canada, I am sure they are ready to organize the big competition and it would be fine. The next one open would be in 2026 so they would have to wait 10 years but then they could be a candidate."

If Canada chose to bid to host the World Cup in 2026 they would likely have to battle against the United States who lost to Qatar in the race to host the 2022 tournament. There is a lot that would need to happen before Canada could be considered as a host. Right now it seems highly unlikely but with FIFA it's impossible to rule anything out.

Blatter has lofty goals for the outcome of the 2015 women's tournament. He went as far as to say that it should be a stepping stone towards the country launching a professional women's league.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for Canada," he said. "It is a chance for the whole country to present to the World a rendezvous of the best of the best in women's football. It is not only good for football but for the whole population.

"This competition must leave a legacy behind, and that legacy should be that the whole population will know about women's football and Canada will have a professional women's league."

During his press conference on Friday, Blatter stated that the impact of hosting the Women's World Cup could leave a bigger legacy than the Olympics. He pointed to the fact that the tournament doesn't just centre around one area of the country, instead spreading from coast to coast with venues stretching from Moncton and Vancouver, thereby touching more people on an individual basis.

However, when 2015 rolls around and the eyes of the soccer world are on Canada, Toronto will be completely bypassed. There are a few reasons behind the city's decision not to bid to host matches including the fact the Pan Am Games will be taking place that summer in the Greater Toronto Area, but all parties that are invested in BMO Field should have done everything they could to ensure the country's national soccer stadium was available to play a part in the event. That said; I'm sure the six host cities will do Canada proud, and will put on a great show for the world's soccer fans to enjoy.

Major League Let Down

Soccer fans in Toronto haven't only missed an opportunity with the Women's World Cup, but they are also being badly let down by the city's Major League Soccer team. Toronto now owns the MLS record for the worst ever start to a season after falling to an eighth straight defeat on Saturday against DC United. The fact that five of those matches have been at home makes the run even more galling.

Throughout the terrible run of results, head coach Aron Winter has remained upbeat, talking of progress being made and a long-term vision but there was very little good to note from Saturday's performance. The most alarming part of the day was the way in which Winter's tactics were criticised by players post game. Ryan Johnson spoke in very strong terms about his disappointment that the team played in such a defensive manner in the first 45 minutes following on from a similar performance in Montreal on Wednesday in the Canadian Championship.

Of course, it's a results business - but it is also about entertaining. People spend their hard earned dollars to support their team, but also to enjoy their time at the stadium. On Saturday, the home side provided zero entertainment. In four of their five home matches at BMO Field this year, they haven't even scored a goal.

While Toronto continues to struggle in its sixth season, Canada's two newest MLS clubs are leaving the Reds in the rear-view mirror. In just their second MLS season, Vancouver Whitecaps continue their turnaround and currently sit in a playoff position in the Western Conference. Saturday's match against San Jose Earthquakes proved the Whitecaps have the ability to match anyone in the league on their day.

Most importantly, after a few weeks where they have been grinding out results based on strong defensive displays, the win over the Quakes showcased Vancouver's ability to attack and entertain. The relief was evident on the face of Eric Hassli when he broke his MLS goal drought by burying the last minute winner, but the scenes of jubilation around BC Place were infectious.

While the Whitecaps were entertaining their home fans, Montreal Impact were busy causing one of the upsets of the season. Coach Jesse Marsch made a number of changes to his line-up as he looks to keep players fresh for the Canadian Championship match in Toronto, but the Impact still managed to get a 2-0 win at Eastern Conference leaders Sporting Kansas City.

It was a well-deserved win, and a highly impressive road performance against one of the best teams in Major League Soccer. It was Montreal's first away win since joining MLS and a second straight clean sheet in the league. Not only did the win emphasise the importance of building a deep squad with MLS experience, but it also showed the excellent job done by Marsch and his team in acquiring talent.

Felipe shone in midfield. The 21 year old Brazilian has been improving game by game and is proving a very shrewd pickup. Nelson Rivas saw his first action on his return from injury and looked extremely solid at the back. Patrice Bernier made the most of his opportunity back in the team and has now given Marsch a difficult decision to make when selecting his team for Wednesday. They are just three of the many positives to come out of the match for Montreal as the team continues to grow together. They certainly didn't look like an expansion side on Saturday night.

MLS on TSN returns on Saturday, May 12 when Montreal Impact host LA Galaxy at Olympic Stadium at 4pm et/1pm pt on TSN.

Sepp Blatter (Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
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