Peter Montopoli on OneSoccer: ‘I believe’ CanMNT will automatically qualify for 2026

OneSoccer host Gareth Wheeler was joined for a special episode of “Inside the Game: on Thursday afternoon by Peter Montopoli, General Secretary of Canada Soccer.

The interview began with some background on Montopoli, who explained that the opportunity of helping Canada stage the 2007 U-20 FIFA World Cup led to him joining the Canadian Soccer Association. Montopoli pointed out that the U-20 World Cup marked a major turning point for the sport in the country, as it was one of the best-attended FIFA events ever, outside of a senior men’s World Cup.

The discussion then turned to the state of the women’s game in Canada, including the possibility of a professional league. Montopoli suggested that he could envision an NWSL team, or a fully Canadian women’s league further down the road, with more investment at the right levels outside of Canada Soccer.

Perhaps the biggest question facing the Canadian women’s side at the moment is who will replace coach Kenneth Heiner-Møller, who will officially leave the post at the end of August.

“I like to think in the July timeframe that we would’ve gone through a process and selected a coach, so there’ll be a bit of a transition,” said Montopoli, adding that he expects a permanent coach to be in place for any upcoming FIFA international windows.

Of course, one of Canada Soccer’s greatest achievements in recent memory was winning, as part of the “United Bid” with the United States and Mexico, the hosting rights to the 2026 FIFA World Cup. Montopoli explained that FIFA representatives had been in Canada in March to discuss the three Canadian candidates to host games: Toronto, Edmonton, and Montreal.

“I’m confident, yes,” Montopoli said when asked about Canada’s chances of hosting World Cup games in all three cities. “It’s gonna take some effort especially over the next 12 months, but I’m confident that all three can be (host cities).”

Adding that the decision is primarily in the hands of FIFA, Montopoli said: “All we can do is position our cities in the best possible way to meet the FIFA tick marks.”

He clarified that, even if not all three Canadian cities meet FIFA’s standard, the hope is still for Canada to host 10 matches in 2026.

Montopoli also fielded the question of whether or not Canada, as a joint-host, will receive automatic qualification to the 2026 World Cup.

“I believe that we will be, but we haven’t had that pen to paper at this point in time,” he said. “It’s difficult for us to make the sales pitch to governments if we’re not playing in it.”

Among other updates, Montopoli said that he feels decisions are “imminent” on naming host cities, as well as the format for the 2022 World Cup qualification process in Concacaf. He also stipulated that once COVID-19 is in the rear-view mirror, Canada Soccer hopes to have the men’s team play matches at home (in various Canadian locations).

Finally, Montopoli provided an update on the CPL’s work toward returning to play. He explained that Canada Soccer is in close contact with the league, ensuring that any proposed plans adhere to the federation’s health and safety protocols.

“I think they’re getting closer and closer to a decision,” he said.

To watch OneSoccer’s Inside the Game with Peter Montopoli in full, click here.

Subscribe to OneSoccer’s YouTube channel for more.