The Canadian Soccer Association released its 2014-18 strategic plan Thursday, with an eye on a huge prize further down the line.
Hosting the 2026 FIFA World Cup.
"The process has to start now," CSA president Victor Montagliani said Thursday of a bid to stage "the grand-daddy of them all."
Brazil is hosting the men's World Cup this summer, with Russia (2018) and Qatar (2022) in the wings. A 2026 bid would probably have to be filed around 2018.
Canada is hosting the women's World Cup next year. Getting that right is key to being able to giving the men's tournament a shot.
CONCACAF, which covers North and Central America and the Caribbean, has not hosted the men's World Cup since the U.S. in 1994.
"We're the only G-8 nation to not host the World Cup," Montagliani added. "We've hosted almost every other event .. I think it's time for Canada to step up to the plate."
By next year, Canada will have hosted every FIFA event except for the world futsal, beach and club championships and Confederations Cup.
Montagliani says the World Cup bid is part of the new blueprint's strategy to encourage growth in the game in Canada.
Such a bid goes hand in hand with reviving a national men's team that currently ranks 111th in the world, sandwiched between Bahrain and Guatemala.
While the Canadian women turned heads with a bronze medal at the 2010 Olympics, the men have not won since being knocked out of World Cup qualifying in a 8-1 humiliation in Honduras in October 2012.
A 2-0 loss in Slovenia last November stretched the Canadian men's winless streak to 14 games. Canada is 0-11-3 over the streak and hasn't scored in 10 games. The winless run has seen the Canadian men outscored 27-2.
Canada has not won since a 3-0 World Cup qualifying victory over Cuba in Toronto four days before the Honduras debacle.
In the national team's defence, Canada has played tough opposition in Australia, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Denmark, Japan, Mexico, Panama, Slovenia and the U.S.
And coach Benito Floro has looked to young talent since taking over the squad last summer.
Montagliani pointed to the U.S. successful bid for the '94 World Cup.
"When they bid for the World Cup, I wouldn't say the game was in a healthy state in the U.S. both professionally and domestically. Their leadership group decided to put a bid together and I think that was a bit of a lightning rod for people to come together."
A World Cup bid would require eight to 12 stadiums with 10 the optimum, according to CSA general secretary Peter Montopoli. All would have to accommodate at least 40,000 with more for the venue for the final.
The CFL's recent trend towards new stadiums and plans to revamp BMO Field in Toronto help the CSA cause although much work would remain, not to mention questions about artificial surfaces.
"There are a lot of requirements from a hosting perspective for a men's World Cup," Montopoli acknowledged. "It's massive."
FIFA, CONCACAF and the federal sport minister are aware of the CSA's intentions, he added.
"We have been trying to get to the prime minister. He's busy. But we will be getting to the prime minister on this file."
CONCACAF seems on board, tweeting its congratulations on the CSA's "ambitious new strategic plan."
A bid to co-host the World Cup was possible, with the subject already having been raised with U.S. Soccer, Montopoli said.
With FIFA yet to issue its 2026 hosting guidelines, Montopoli said talk of a co-hosted bid "might be a little premature but it certainly is possible."
The CSA's 2014-18 blueprint is titled "Leading a Soccer Nation." It is a pithy document divided into four goals with 27 sub-points.
The four major goals are:
- Invest in technical leadership.
- Ensure consistent world-class performances by our national teams.
- Govern the game in Canada professionally.
- Encourage and oversee the grown of the game.
The CSA plan also calls for mandating technical development across the country and establishing a national player database.
The strategic plan was 18 months in the making with input coming from town hall meetings and an online survey (which got 3,000 responses).
It also involved looking at the strategic plans of other sports in Canada including hockey, figure skating, volleyball and golf, as well as foreign soccer organizations from the U.S. and England to Mexico and the Netherlands.
"Because we believe there was no point in re-inventing the wheel here," said Nick Bontis, director and chair of the CSA's strategic committee.
Changes in CSA governance have made the association better able to institute its policies. The makeup of the CSA board is no longer made up of regional interests, with the emphasis on skill set rather than geography.
Bontis says the new strategic plan will pay immediate dividends.
"We've never historically necessitated a certain behaviour by our provincial associations," said Bontis. "This strat (strategic) plan is the opposite. It necessitates certain behaviours."
That includes provincial governance reform, investment in technical leadership and mandating provincial strategic plans.
"Historically it was 10 different countries writing their own strat plans, their own technical plans, moving forward and somehow — in some sort of magical way, Abracadabra — the CSA was supposed to co-ordinate 10 national plans. That is something that needs to go away in the short-term."
Bontis will be front and centre in the CSA's plan to create a national player database, allowing it to better leverage its 850,000-plus registered players.
"We are in the year 2014 and we are archaic," he said. "It's an embarrassment how we register players across the country."
"Harvesting a million registrants will have fundamental changes in the way we do business in soccer in Canada," he added.
Players currently register with their local club, with the information and accompanying fees eventually flowing to the district and then the province and then the CSA.
Bontis' goal is for players to register nationally online, establishing a connection directly with the national program.
Canada Soccer previously prepared a hosting bid for the 1986 FIFA World Cup, which was originally awarded to Colombia but then went to Mexico. That tournament marks Canada's lone participation in the event.
Canada hosted the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 1987 (then known as the FIFA U-16 World Tournament), the U-20 Women's World Cup in 2002 and the U-20 World Cup in 2007.
This summer will see another edition of the U-20 Women's World Cup in Canada with the Women's World Cup to follow in 2015.