On June 16, 2022, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) announced Toronto as one of the FIFA World Cup 2026 Host Cities.
The most competitive venue selection process in FIFA World Cup history, Toronto was announced alongside Vancouver and 14 other cities throughout the United States and Mexico. Ten matches are expected to be hosted in Canada, divided between Toronto and Vancouver, with a possibility of up to 10 nations playing at BMO Field. It’s the first time Canada will host the men’s event.
What does the announcement mean for Toronto? It’s important to look at the benefits of major events both in the immediate term and also the long term. In the immediate (in 2026) the global tournament will attract team fans and soccer aficionados from around the world. Depending on which teams play here, that could be tens of thousands of people, in addition to FIFA officials, sponsors, government delegations and all of the other business that is vitally part of major world sporting events. Many of those visitors will be here for the first time and will take full advantage of their Toronto experience by visiting attractions, neighbourhoods, restaurants and shops throughout not just Toronto but beyond the city as well.
In the long term, major events beget more major events. Large-scale events in sport or international congress or corporate meetings form an essential foundation of business for the destination, booked years in advance. Hosting and showcasing a successful event like the World Cup leads to more opportunities to invite, win and host major events as organizers recognize the opportunity for them to be successful bringing their event to Toronto.
“The FIFA World Cup generates significant economic, cultural and community benefits for host cities and countries and increases host cities’ profiles on the world stage. The significant economic impact anticipated from the event will help sustain Toronto’s long-term recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in the hard-hit tourism, hospitality and entertainment sectors.”
- City of Toronto
Economic impact is only one consideration when it comes to welcoming international sporting events to the City. They bring an undeniable vibrancy and energy to the city and there is a lasting sports legacy that results from hosting large-scale matches, both in elevated youth interest in the sport and the infrastructure created.
The Pan Am Sports Centre, on the University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus, is a world-class sports facility that has been credited with fostering the growth and development of local competitive swimmers. At the two Olympics before The Pan Am Sports Centre was built, Canadian swimmers won three medals, while at the following two, in Rio and Tokyo, they won 12. Similarly, following the building of the velodrome in Milton for the same games, Canada sent the biggest Olympic cycling team in history to Tokyo.
We’ll all know more about Toronto’s World Cup opportunity in the months and years ahead - like how many games, which teams. In the meantime, much focus is already on identifying and attracting more major events to our global city.