'Absolutely phenomenal:' Toronto officials welcome addition of more games to 2026 FIFA World Cup
A rendering of an expansion set to be added to BMO Field is seen in this image. (www.bmofield.com)
Published Friday, March 17, 2023 4:39PM EDT
Toronto could be in line to host some extra games during the 2026 FIFA World Cup, something that one city councillor involved with planning for the event says would be “absolutely phenomenal” for the city.
When Toronto was first selected as one of 16 host sites spread across Canada, the United States and Mexico in June, it was anticipated that BMO Field would get a maximum of five games.
That, however, was based on the expectation that FIFA would use smaller three-team groups to whittle down the expanded 48-team field, prior to the knockout round.
But earlier this week, FIFA’s governing council opted to instead use four-team groups during the 2026 event, adding a total of 24 games to the tournament in the process.
FIFA hasn’t said how it plans to distribute those extra games yet, though the mere possibility of more games has some people involved with the planning in Toronto excited.
“We are currently working towards five games, that is the plan right now and we haven't been advised otherwise but to say it's not exciting news, this is excellent news,” Coun. Jaye Robinson, who is helping to lead the city’s planning for the 2026 World Cup, told CP24.com this week. “The economic benefits would just grow (with more games). Already it is $307 million GDP impact, 3,300 jobs and 174,000 overnight visitors. And of course a billion TV viewers, which showcases Toronto. But with every match that goes up.”
Toronto is expected to add 17,756 temporary seats to BMO Field prior to the 2026 World Cup, expanding its capacity to more than 45,000.
It is also expected to spend an estimated $41.2 million on training facilities for visiting teams, including major renovations to existing city facilities at Sunnybrook Park and Centennial Park.
Speaking with CP24.com, Robinson said that she believes that the city would be well-positioned to host additional games if the opportunity presents itself.
But she said that the decision will ultimately be up to FIFA.
Vancouver is the only other Canadian host site.
“I think our plans are definitely scalable. But you know, FIFA is the chief decision-maker here. All we can say is this is good news,” she said. “It's exciting information and we'll look forward to what FIFA has to say.”
The estimated cost to taxpayers for Toronto to host FIFA World Cup games has previously been pegged at $300 million.
The city wants other levels of government to pick up two-thirds of that cost, however, back in November Premier Doug Ford said that his government had not yet decided if it will foot part of the bill.
Robinson did say that discussions are ongoing with the province and that she was hopeful there would be “some more information shortly.”
“I think Toronto is really going to get behind this (the World Cup) and it's going to be great for local residents but also for tourism. We need a good shot in the arm after what we've been through,” she said.