FIFA is officially considering Vancouver as a 2026 World Cup host city

Apr 14 2022, 3:38 pm

Vancouver is officially classified as a “Candidate Host City” in the competition amongst Canadian, American, and Mexican cities to host the joint three-nation 2026 FIFA World Cup.

FIFA made the announcement today as an update to its process of selecting host cities, to be finalized by the end of the second quarter of 2022.

“Following the submission of documentation by the Province of British Columbia/City of Vancouver in order to join the Candidate Host City process (with BC Place as the proposed stadium), as well as a recent inspection visit by a FIFA delegation, world football’s governing body has agreed to accept the city’s candidacy,” reads a statement issued by FIFA today.

While negotiations have been taking place since the second half of 2021, the “Candidate Host City” classification brings Vancouver into the formal process of being seriously considered one of the 16 host cities hosting the World Cup in 2026. Vancouver now joins Edmonton and Toronto as potential Canadian hosts.

“I am encouraged that FIFA has confirmed Vancouver, British Columbia, as a candidate host city for the FIFA World Cup 2026. The FIFA World Cup is the largest single sporting event in the world,” said Melanie Mark, the BC Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, and Sport in a released statement today responding to FIFA’s announcement.

“Hosting the event would be a once-in-a-generation opportunity for soccer fans, for our tourism sector and for all British Columbians… The stars are aligning for Canada Soccer, British Columbia and Vancouver. It’s time we showcase beautiful BC once again.”

Mark says Destination BC and BC Stats estimate Vancouver’s host city role 2026, if selected, would bring in more than $1 billion in new revenue for BC’s tourism sector during and in the five years that follow the World Cup.

She also notes that BC Premier John Horgan has given her a mandate to support tourism and sport through recovery from the pandemic’s impacts.

“Our goal is, and always will be, to deliver the games in a way that maximizes benefits of this event for all British Columbians. BC and the rest of the world has been hit hard by the pandemic. The Premier has given me a mandate to support tourism and sport through recovery from the impacts of COVID-19. Hosting the FIFA World Cup 2026 would serve as a beacon for BC’s tourism industry, as it recovers from an incredibly challenging two years,” continued Mark.

“More than 3.5 billion people watch the World Cup every four years. Becoming a host city and putting the global spotlight on BC would, once again, inspire travellers from around the world to come, stay and play. We have a world-class stadium, excellent training facilities and established infrastructure that meets FIFA hosting requirements, all of which make Vancouver particularly well equipped to host the event.”

There will likely be more host cities than in previous World Cup tournaments, as 2026 will be the first time the tournament expands to 48 competing countries. This is an increase from the long-held tradition of 32 teams with about 10 to 12 host cities in a single host nation.

“We have given it our best shot. We look forward to FIFA announcing the host cities in the coming weeks and are hopeful that Vancouver will be selected,” added Mark.

Throughout Fall 2021, FIFA officials toured 22 potential hots, including Boston, Atlanta, Nashville, Orlando, Washington, DC; Baltimore, New York/New Jersey, Philadelphia, Miami, Kansas City, Cincinnati, Dallas, Denver, Houston, San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Monterrey, as well as Edmonton and Toronto. Vancouver was not a stop on the tours at the time.

At each stop, the delegation from FIFA visited the stadium, team practice sites, and Fan Festival venues, discussing key issues such as infrastructure, transportation, accommodations, and security with local officials.

In 2018, just days before the United 2026 bid between the three national soccer federations was finalized and submitted, the BC provincial government pulled Vancouver out of the tri-nation bid, citing that FIFA essentially wanted the province to sign a “blank cheque” on costs.

But BC Premier John Horgan signalled a change of heart in July 2021, shortly after Quebec’s provincial government announced it would not support Montreal’s continued contention. Previously planned major upgrades for Montreal’s Olympic Stadium that would have been built in time for the World Cup, but not necessarily for the World Cup, have also been significantly delayed.

At the time, Horgan told Sportsnet 650 that Montreal stepping away “does create a real opportunity for Vancouver” and that his preliminary meetings with FIFA officials indicated, “FIFA will not be looking for the sea and the sky in their ask from host cities.”

In early February 2021, Horgan provided an update on the ongoing FIFA negotiations, outlining the progress being made and that his position has completely changed since 2018.

“We’re going into a period where we need to use our spectacular facilities. BC Place has been empty, virtually, for the past two years. It’s a great facility. We spent a ton of money as taxpayers to build in the first place, to update it, and fix the roof,” he said in an interview on Donnie and Dhali.

FIFA had originally planned on finalizing its 2026 host cities in 2021, but the pandemic delayed its selection process.

Vancouver is a serious contender for reasons that include its time zone aligning with the high likelihood of major US West Coast host cities, the city and region’s market size to support the scope of the event, and its accommodations, infrastructure, and experience with hosting major sports events.

Its venue, the 54,500-seat BC Place Stadium, is widely considered the flagship stadium of Canada. It played a pivotal role in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup when it held nine matches, including the championship final. Over the years, the stadium has been Canada Soccer’s primary venue of choice for international matches. It also hosts the annual Canada Sevens stop of World Rugby’s Rugby Sevens tournament.

Over the month-long summertime tournament in 2026, there will be 60 matches, with 40 held in the USA, 10 in Mexico, and another 10 in Canada. With FIFA bringing Vancouver into the fold of potential host cities, it puts a big question mark over how it will affect the candidacies of Toronto and, especially, Edmonton, if not at least the allocation of the number of matches in each Canadian city.

In late March 2022, Alberta’s provincial government announced it would back Edmonton’s bid to be a 2026 host city with a maximum financial contribution of $110 million. But the provincial support comes with conditions, including federal and municipal funding, confirmation of the staging of at least five matches at Commonwealth Stadium, and unforeseen security costs would be the responsibility of the City of Edmonton and the federal government.

Last month, Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart indicated he would ask the city council to consider a member motion proposing the municipal government allocate up to $5 million in funding to help support the cost of staging the 2026 tournament. This allocation is up from the City of Vancouver’s $1.5 million commitment to the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The mayor’s motion will be presented and deliberated by city council later this spring.

The BC provincial government has yet to outline its proposed contribution to staging the event publicly.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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