BC Place Stadium could host more than five matches when the FIFA World Cup comes to North America in 2026.
Vancouver was chosen last June to be one of 16 host cities for the 48-nation tournament that FIFA originally awarded in 2018 to the U.S., Canada and Mexico under an 80-match format.
However, after high international TV ratings for first-round matches at Qatar 2022, the FIFA Council decided Tuesday to expand the tournament by two-dozen matches to 104.
“Based on a thorough review that considered sporting integrity, player welfare, team travel, commercial and sporting attractiveness, as well as team and fan experience, the FIFA Council unanimously approved the proposed amendment to the FIFA World Cup 2026 competition format from 16 groups of three to 12 groups of four with the top two and eight best third-placed teams progressing to a round of 32,” the Switzerland-based soccer governing body announced.
“The revised format mitigates the risk of collusion and ensures that all the teams play a minimum of three matches, while providing balanced rest time between competing teams.”
The U.S. was already committed to hosting 60 matches, with 10 to be hosted in Mexico and 10 in Canada. Canada-hosted games were to be split between BC Place and Toronto’s BMO Field.
FIFA set a 60,000-seat capacity minimum to host a match in the quarter-finals and beyond. The two Canadian venues are among the smallest across the 16 host cities for 2026, so Vancouver and Toronto could be allotted more first-round and round-of-32 matches.
But how much will it cost taxpayers to subsidize FIFA, one of the world’s richest sports organizations?
The City of Vancouver is charging an additional 2.5-per-cent tax on accommodations through 2030 to pay for the $230 million cost of hosting. The province has not revealed how much it plans to spend at BC Place, nor has the federal government revealed a security budget.
“The expansion just announced by FIFA is really exciting for sport fans and host cities,” read a prepared statement from the B.C. Ministry of Tourism, Art, Culture and Sport. "However, FIFA has not yet indicated how this will affect the schedule, or the number of matches to be played in Vancouver. We expect more information on this later this year, and we will continue to provide further updates as they become available in the lead up to the 2026 FIFA Men’s World Cup.”
Similarly, Vancouver city hall did not comment on additional costs.
“At this time, we await the match schedule from FIFA which will outline which games will land in Vancouver,” said a statement sent by Natasha Qereshniku of the city hall communications office. “Until that time, we continue to operate under existing assumptions that we will host five matches in Vancouver.”
Taxpayers are expected to pay heavily for hosting the tournament, despite FIFA reporting US$2.37 billion in net income on the US$5.7 billion revenue raised during the 2019 to 2022 cycle. The lion’s share of FIFA revenue came from the sale of TV broadcast rights.
The Crown corporation that operates BC Place is considering the expansion of its 50 private suites that hold between 10 and 24 people each. If BC Pavilion Corp. (PavCo) proceeds with the project, it would take over back-of-house archival space from the BC Sports Hall of Fame.
During the 2015 Women’s World Cup, FIFA exerted its strict guidelines for third-party operations inside official venues to prevent the Sports Hall from opening on match days.
Both the province and city hall are keeping secret the extent of their relationship with FIFA.
In response to a freedom of information request for B.C.’s hosting proposal, PavCo withheld almost all 117 pages. The taxpayer-owned stadium operator cited exceptions to the public records law that protect policy advice or recommendations, intergovernmental relations or negotiations, financial or economic interests of a public body, and business interests of a third party.
The only information visible includes Ministry and PavCo letterhead, PavCo CEO Ken Cretney’s signature, the words “table of contents” and “introduction,” and nine pages with “Vancouver Questionnaire” at the top.