World Cup 2026 is coming to Toronto. What you need to know

FIFA has made it official. For the first time in its near-century history, the World Cup of soccer tournament is coming to Toronto.

The 2026 international showcase will see Toronto and Vancouver split the 10 games to be played in Canada, according to Thursday’s official announcement from New York. Mexico will host another 10 games, while the remaining 60 games — including everything from the quarterfinals stage onward — will take place throughout the US In total, 16 cities from the three countries will share the hosting responsibilities.

Momentum has already been building across North America to host arguably the biggest sporting event on Earth, four years from the actual festivities that usually last a little over a month. Canada’s team will play in Qatar later this year for the first time since 1986, and being a host country gives it automatic qualification for 2026.

With all eyes set to turn to North America in four years’ time to watch the who’s who of the beautiful game’s superstars, here are a few important things to know:

It’s a bloody big deal

Hosting the men’s World Cup is a rare and massive opportunity in North America. Canada has never hosted a men’s World Cup game since the competition was established in 1930. The US hosted eleven in 1994, while the competition was held in Mexico twice (1970, 1986).

The tournament — which is held every four years and has been canceled only twice, in 1942 and 1946, because of the Second World War — has seen the majority of games played in Europe, South America and Asia. Africa hosted eleven in 2010 (South Africa).

Apart from the historical ramifications and the impact of growing the game locally, hosting the World Cup also brings significant economic implications.

Last March, a City of Toronto staff report estimated the costs of hosting half the games allocated to Canada at upwards of $90 million — with additional costs being footed by the provincial and federal governments. But Mayor John Tory and city staff have been confident the returns would be much higher. The report suggests the event would bring in about 174,000 overnight visitors, create 3,300 jobs in the city and generate over $300 million for the local economy.

Host cities are also obliged to organize a 34-day FanFest. These celebrations have been part of every World Cup since 2006, and they provide an opportunity for local fans to experience the fever of the games without getting inside the stadiums — like the Jurassic Park parties outside Scotiabank Arena for the Toronto Raptors playoffs games. Live music and other forms of entertainment are all part of that experience.

BMO Field, home of the Toronto FC and the Toronto Argonauts, has a capacity of 30,000 seats.  City officials have said plans are underway to temporarily increase seating capacity to about 45,000 people to meet FIFA's minimum standard of at least 40,000 seats.

World Cup also gives host countries huge global exposure. FIFA estimates that upwards of one billion people watch the games on various platforms, giving host countries a chance at future global investments, tourism and immigration.

Tournament changes

FIFA expanded the field for the 2026 World Cup with 48 countries competing, up from the usual 32.

  • The new format will see 16 groups, each made up of three countries.
  • As a first in the tournament’s history, there must be a winner in every group match — and if the game is tied at the end of regulation, teams will immediately proceed to penalty kicks without going into extra time.
  • The top two teams in each group will advance to the round of 32, where half of them will survive and advance to the round of 16, which in turn will result in eight remaining contenders competing for a quarterfinals berth.
  • Then four teams will advance to the semi-finals and two of them will compete for the ultimate prize, the 2026 FIFA World Cup trophy.

hosting history

This will mark the first time the World Cup is held in three different countries. In 2002, Japan and South Korea shared the hosting duties, with the final game being played at Yokohama International Stadium in Japan.

FIFA announced the three-country hosting arrangement back in 2018, and a total of 22 cities initially submitted bids to host — in Canada, Montreal later dropped out of the contention, leaving Toronto, Vancouver and Edmonton in the running.

The city of Edmonton, which hosted the 2015 women’s World Cup, was originally considered a strong candidate for some games in 2026. But government officials made it clear they would only commit to funding the festivities if they were allowed to host five of the 10 games that Canada will get — demands considered too high for FIFA organizers.

Mexico’s candidate cities, which were all heavily favored to win given their previous success in hosting, are Guadalajara, Mexico City and Monterrey. All three made the cut.

A total of 15 American cities had submitted bids to host 60 games in 2026. 11 of them will share those responsibilities: Boston, Philadelphia, Miami, New York, Houston, Atlanta, Dallas, Kansas City, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle.

In choosing host cities, FIFA officials say they considered factors such as hotel availability, public transportation infrastructure and the willingness of city authorities in committing public funding to prepare for the event.

Renovations ahead

Both BMO Field in Toronto and BC Place in Vancouver will need a major makeover to reach FIFA’s venue standards for hosting the World Cup games.

BMO Field, home of the Toronto FC and the Toronto Argonauts, has a capacity of 30,000 seats. City officials have said plans are underway to temporarily increase seating capacity to about 45,000 people to meet FIFA’s minimum standard of at least 40,000 seats. Officials have previously said the plan is to expand the north and south ends of the stadium before the big event.

BC Place doesn’t have the capacity issue as it seats 54,500 fans. But it has artificial turf, a no-go for FIFA, so a natural grass surface will be needed.

With files from David Rider


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