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What a Canadian World Cup Means for Vancouver

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With the announcement of a joint 2026 World Cup bid, we discuss what this means for Vancouver (and the Whitecaps)

Soccer: 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifyer-El Salvador at Canada Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday, to no one’s surprise, United States Soccer, Canadian Soccer Association, and Federacion Mexicana de Futbol announced that it would submit a joint bid for the 2026 World Cup.

The 2026 World Cup will be the first to consist of 48 teams (up from the current 32). This means that there will be plenty of matches to go around. The United States will host 60 matches while Canada and Mexico will each have 10. One key component of the announcement is that all matches after the quarterfinals (semis, final, and 3rd place) will take place in the United States. I know some have a problem with that, but I don’t see it as a big deal.

The announcement of a joint bid could mean that Canada finally gets back to the World Cup as host countries are provided an automatic place; even if they are Qatar. However, with a three-headed host, it is unclear how the automatic bids will be distributed. If the tournament was still 32 teams I would see it as highly unlikely that all three would receive automatic bids, however, with the expansion to 48 teams, this is, hopefully, more likely.

If the bid is successful, which many think it will be, the next step is to determine where the 10 Canadian matches will take place. There are only a few cities that could actually host matches, without building a new stadium or completing substantial upgrades, with Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto, and Montreal as the most likely.

The issue with many of the Canadian options is turf. It is unclear whether existing rules about real grass will remain come 2026. If so, that makes things more difficult for Vancouver. It would be possible to put temporary real grass in BC Place or spend some money and build a complicated drainage system. However, the argument against a drainage system has always been the multi-use of BC Place and how that would impact the durability of a drainage system.

Some people have recently suggested that the World Cup could be a driving force behind a new stadium in Vancouver. I don’t see that as likely. While the Olympics were the reason for upgrading BC Place, it was also understood that the Vancouver Whitecaps would become tenants. Sure, there are plenty of conventions, fairs, and the BC Lions to fill the void, but the World Cup seems like a weak argument to build a new 40k plus stadium, when BC Place already exists and meets that requirement.

I am curious what your feels are about the joint bid? Are you happy with the 10 matches? Excited for Canada (maybe) being in the World Cup? Which cities should host matches (and how many)? I suspect that two of the quarterfinals would be in Canada. Where should they be played?