This week we learned how many World Cup games will take place in Vancouver and Toronto, which will co-host the men’s soccer tournament with cities in the United States and Mexico in 2026.
As has been known from the beginning, Canada and Mexico will be sitting at the children’s table, hosting just 13 games each. The United States will have 78 games, including the final, which will take place at an 87,000-seat stadium in New Jersey — which the organizers describe as being in New York, presumably because the stadium normally hosts the New York Giants and the New York Jets. The tournament will begin in Mexico City on June 11.
[Read all the details from The Athletic: World Cup 2026: The biggest tournament yet and a New York final]
Vancouver will host seven matches, and Toronto will get six, including the first game involving Canada’s national team. The cost to both cities and the state of their stadium preparation are less clear.
Qatar, which hosted the 2022 tournament, built seven new stadiums.
Canada’s efforts will be far more modest. Vancouver will renovate B.C. Place for the second time since it replaced the facility’s failing inflatable roof with a retractable one in 2011 — a sprucing up that ran 149 million Canadian dollars over its 365 million-dollar budget. And Toronto is adding an unusually precise 15,736 temporary seats to the 30,000 seats now in place at BMO Field. (In 2021, Montreal dropped out of the bidding to be a host city after the provincial government declined to provide funding out of concern about potential cost overruns.)
British Columbia’s government estimated in 2022 that the cost of its preparations would be between 240 million and 260 million Canadian dollars, of which 40 million dollars was for facilities — a category that includes practice fields as well as B.C. Place. The province and the city of Vancouver have both refused to release their agreement with FIFA. the sport’s international governing body, citing confidentiality provisions, or to answer specific questions about it, although nearby Seattle, another host city, apparently had no such restriction.
Among other things, the Seattle agreement gives a tight timeline for all stadium construction to be completed: the middle of next year.
In Toronto, a city where a major light rail project is now about two and a half years behind schedule, the stadium renovations are still in the hands of architects.
Sharon Bollenbach, the city’s executive director for World Cup hosting, told me in a statement that the current plan is for work to begin this fall.
Toronto’s currently estimated cost for hosting is 300 million. But FIFA subsequently expanded the number of teams in the competition and, thus, the number of games. Toronto now will host one more game than it had anticipated; Vancouver will get two more.
“The city is reviewing planning assumptions and will recalculate costs, revenue opportunities and benefits,” Ms. Bollenbach said by email. “Existing calculations were based on Toronto hosting five games. As with any major event, the city is working with partners to balance costs and benefits to ensure that any public investment in hosting the World Cup in Toronto yields significant benefits and legacies for Torontonians.”
The idea that the economic and tourism benefits will eclipse the costs to host cities was also offered by Ken Sim, the mayor of Vancouver, a city that is forecasting that the tournament may create more than $1 billion a year in economic activity leading up to 2026 and for each of the following five years.
“When you bring economic activity to the city, you uplift everyone,” Mr. Sim told the CBC. “You create more opportunity for people.”
Money aside, with Canada guaranteed an entry into the World Cup as a host nation and many members of its national team, including Alphonso Davies, among the top ranks of international professional players, enthusiasm is likely to be high in 2026.
But claims that the World Cup will bring in more economically than it costs to host its games should be viewed skeptically. For decades, economists have gone back and examined the pregame predictions of dramatic economic and tourism gains for host nations and cities. There is a broad consensus: The forecasts are, at best, exaggerated, and the economic effects are often minimal and short-lived.