One of the biggest sporting events on the planet is coming to Toronto.
FIFA has announced that the city has been chosen as one of 16 sites for the 2026 World Cup, bringing an end to a months-long process that saw officials pay visits to 22 different candidate cities.
Vancouver was the only other Canadian city chosen to host games. Edmonton, which was included on the short list of potential host sites, didn’t make the cut.
Other host cities include Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Kansas City, Dallas, Atlanta, Houston, Boston, Philadelphia, Miami, New York/New Jersey as well as Monterrey, Guadalajara and Mexico City.
In a video message delivered as part of the FIFA broadcast, Mayor John Tory welcomed the news, noting that “this global city is ready to welcome the global game” and “is going to do it right.”
“Toronto is all in and ready to welcome the world,” he said.
Speaking with reporters after the announcement, Tory called Thursday’s selection a ‘thrilling day’ for the city.
“I think it’s going to be great for the game. It’s going to be great for the city, it’s going to be great for the economy,” Tory said. “It’s going to be great for the spirit of the city.”
Tory noted that hosting the quadrennial tournament will provide an opportunity for the city to build “legacy projects” that will help grow the sport of soccer.
“So it’s not about, you know, a few games of soccer that are then over with. As important as they may be and as much as the whole world would watch, it’s about what you leave behind. And some of them have to do with the game itself and making sure that following the World Cup, we have even better facilities than we have today,” the mayor said.
Former Canadian soccer stalwart and Scarborough native Dwayne De Rosario also reacted to the news while speaking with CP24 at a watch party at Real Sports, calling it “surreal.”
“As an inner city kid growing up it was only football, it was only soccer. And a lot of us first generation Canadians and a lot of us immigrants we brought that passion and love for the sport and it is finally now being brought to the forefront, with the help of the World Cup coming to Canada and with the help of our national team doing so well,” he said. “It is just amazing and you know what Canada may be a hockey country but we can also be a soccer country too.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted that he cannot wait for the matches to begin.
Officials have previously said that the United States is likely to host 60 games during the expanded 48-team tournament while Canada and Mexico will host 10 games apiece.
The exact breakdown of games between the two Canadian host sites isn’t immediately clear.
In Toronto, World Cup games will be played at BMO Field. The venue currently has a capacity of 30,000 for soccer but officials are hoping to boost capacity to at least 45,000 through the use of temporary seating. That is the minimum number of seats required by FIFA.
The confirmation that Toronto will indeed play host to some of the world’s greatest soccer players comes just a few hours after the city released a one-minute video, promoting the city’s diversity and making its case as a natural place to host one of the world’s most-watched sporting events.
The video included footage of some of Toronto’s biggest events, from the Caribbean Carnival to the Raptors championship parade with this tag line:
“We are a place that welcomes you and celebrates who you are because in essence it’s who we are. All here. Every continent. All in. Toronto, the world’s stage and the perfect place to host the World Cup.”
Event will cost taxpayers nearly $300 million
Hosting World Cup games in Toronto will cost taxpayers an estimated $290 million, with the provincial and federal governments expected to pick up approximately two-thirds of the tab.
It’s a big increase on the $30 to $45 million estimate provided by city staff in 2018 when Toronto first expressed an interest in hosting games.
The economic impact of the event, however, could be sizeable.
City staff have estimated that the tournament will result in $307 million dollars of GDP impact in Toronto, including the creation of 3,300 jobs.
It is also expected to bring 174,000 overnight visitors to the city and generate 3,300 jobs.
“It will put Toronto on the map,” Tory told reporters in April. “This is the biggest sporting event in the world and I think for us to be a part of it I think the vast majority of the people of Toronto will be excited about that and they will see the business sense in it.”
As a host city, Toronto will be responsible for staging a fan fest at an estimated cost of more than $17 million. It will also spend an estimated $41.2 million on building training facilities for visiting teams.
The capital work at BMO Field will likely begin sometime in 2024, according to city staff.
Tory said Thursday that the city will “get that money back.”
“The World Cup will produce just as many if not more people spread over a longer period of time. It’ll fill up every hotel room, every restaurant will be full, all the businesses will be seeing people from around the world come to buy things here. The city itself will be excited about the whole thing,” the mayor said.
“So I’m confident we will have solid partnerships with the other governments to make this a great success. It’ll be good for Canada and good for Toronto.”
With a worldwide audience, Tory said the World Cup would also be a way for Toronto to showcase itself and what it can offer to millions of people.
“We need smart people. We need ambitious people to come and live here and to invest here and to create jobs here,” he said.
“This is as much about the economy as it is about sports and our opportunity to build this city up in terms of what is already a good reputation, to make it a great reputation and get the best in the world to come and live and invest here in what I think is the single greatest place they can come in the world to do business.”
Before the announcement on Thursday, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland was asked about federal support for the cities that will host the games and said, “let’s wait to talk about that until we know what the decision is.”
“But I do want to say to all Canadians, and okay, I’m a Toronto MP, to Torontonians, this is very exciting.”
It is the first time that any FIFA men’s World Cup games will be held in Canada.
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