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Victoria would host soccer stars if Vancouver wins 2026 World Cup bid

Greater Victoria and Whistler have been proposed as the hosts for team training camps if B.C. Place is selected as a venue for men’s soccer games in the 2026 World Cup. The 2026 United Bid proposes 60 World Cup games to be hosted in the U.S.
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UVic Vikes player Caitlin Millham tries to get to the ball between UBC Thunderbirds Daniel Steer, left, and Jessica Williams in CIS exhibition soccer action at Centennial Stadium in 2017. Millham's career as a Vike is coming to an end.

Greater Victoria and Whistler have been proposed as the hosts for team training camps if B.C. Place is selected as a venue for men’s soccer games in the 2026 World Cup.

The 2026 United Bid proposes 60 World Cup games to be hosted in the U.S. and 10 in each of Canada and Mexico in the first expanded 48-team tournament.

A total of 34 U.S. cities, seven Canadian cities and three in Mexico were expected to submit bids by Tuesday night’s deadline. The governing soccer bodies in each of the three nations will decide their own host cities and how the games are divvied among them.

In Canada, Vancouver and B.C. Place are bidding against Edmonton, Calgary, Regina, Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa. The favourites are Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, with one city likely getting four games and the others three each.

Those details will be decided by the Canadian Soccer Association over the next few months.

If the association opts for a fourth Canadian venue, it would likely be Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, but 10 games is not a lot to share among so many sites.

World Cup training camps for the national teams take over entire facilities and require extensive logistics, including highly involved security operations to protect the players, many of whom are famous and high-priced pro athletes.

“We were invited by the group hoping to bring games to B.C. Place to put forward a proposal for training camps. Based on that, we put a proposal together and have submitted it to them,” said Hugh MacDonald, executive director of SportHost Victoria.

MacDonald said the other partners involved in the proposal are Tourism Victoria, University of Victoria and City of Victoria, indicating UVic’s Centennial Stadiumand Wallace Field, along with Royal Athletic Park, are being considered as training fields.

Stadiums for World Cup games typically have seating for 40,000 to 80,000. Capacity at B.C. Place is about 54,500.

“Obviously, we can’t be considered a venue for games because we don’t have a stadium of that capacity, but being a training venue is a terrific and outstanding opportunity for Victoria in the 2026 World Cup,” said MacDonald.

Shawnigan Lake School has hosted numerous Canadian national team rugby and rowing camps as well as Vancouver Canucks development camps. Headmaster David Robertson said he would be very interested in pursuing 2026 World Cup team camp hosting opportunities.

“We are set up to do exactly that — host groups and teams here — and would love to be involved if the opportunity arose,” Robertson said.

A mix of dorms, residences and first-class hotels would be required for the World Cup training venues, along with several natural grass fields that are nearby, and groomed to the highest international standards.

Once the official host cities, with their associated training camp venues, are decided by the respective governing bodies of Canada, Mexico and the U.S., the United Bid committee will then submit the final list to FIFA on March 16.

The United Bid is the prohibitive favourite over longshot Morocco for the 2026 World Cup. The FIFA vote will be taken, and the winning bid announced, on June 13, 2018.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com