Dillon Giancola: Eight years to go

I never thought Canada would ever qualify for another World Cup, at least not in my lifetime. That may be a ridiculous thing to say considering I’m only 32, but it’s reality. While soccer becomes more popular in North America each year, it has yet to result in worldclass Canadian male soccer players.

However, there were two changes which I thought could result in Canada making it if implemented.The first is if the number of teams were expanded from 32 to, say, 48, or some changes were made to qualifying, which would prevent Canada from having to go through dreaded Honduras. The other way is if Canada ever hosted the World Cup. Alas, neither of these seemed like real possibilities.

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As you know by now, Canada will jointly host the World Cup with the U.S. and Mexico in 2026. Not only will there be 48 teams, there’s a good chance that Canada will receive an automatic entry, although that won’t be confirmed for quite some time.

Either way, this is amazing news. It’s been a week since the bid was approved, and I still can’t contain my excitement. That’s no doubt boosted by the current World Cup taking place in Russia, and I can’t help but envision what it would be like to go to a game, or have that kind of hype and atmosphere in a city close to me, let alone actually be able to cheer for Canada. We would not be good, that’s for sure, but the prospect of playing at home in eight years should result in a surge of growth in the game nationally, and maybe we’d actually be OK by the 2038 World Cup. Let’s dream big, people.

Of course, we don’t yet know where the games will be played, although Canada has three cities in the mix, including Edmonton. I lived in Edmonton for nine years, and within an hour’s drive for another 11. Watching the Edmonton Eskimos at Commonwealth Stadium are some of my favourite memories, and my affinity for that stadium is large. It deserves to host the World Cup, even if it’s just one or two group stage games. Canada against Japan? I’m there — maybe we’d only lose by two goals.

Yes, Canada has hosted the Olympics before, and they were great, especially the 2010 Vancouver games. But I wasn’t there, and as cool as it was, the feeling doesn’t quite extend across the whole country. Obviously, there are more than three cities in Canada, but the atmosphere that the World Cup brings would be accessible to a bit more people across our country.

If you can’t tell, I’m very excited. Sure, it’s eight years away, and that’s a long time, but I can wait. It’s not like I had any plans in 2026 or anything. Plus, eight years isn’t as long as you think, not much changes. In 2010, I spent many nights losing to my friends at FIFA on XBOX. Surprise, surprise, I’m still not very good.

World Cup fever. Catch it.

Email sports reporter Dillon Giancola at sports@ahnsfj.ca

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