'Exciting' potential for Vancouver to host more World Cup matches as FIFA changes format: B.C. Place manager

B.C. Place is set to host multiple matches at the 2026 FIFA World Cup.  (Rich Lam/Getty Images - image credit)
B.C. Place is set to host multiple matches at the 2026 FIFA World Cup. (Rich Lam/Getty Images - image credit)

FIFA announced Tuesday it is expanding the 2026 World Cup by adding another 24 matches. With Vancouver among the 16 North American cities hosting, B.C. Place could potentially host more matches — a prospect the venue's manager describes as "very exciting."

The governing body of soccer increased the size of the 2026 tournament for the second time — six years after the first — by approving a bigger group stage for the inaugural 48-team event.

The new World Cup format will have 12 groups of four teams instead of 16 groups of three, the plan chosen in 2017.

By retaining groups of four rather than moving to three, FIFA has created a 104-game schedule, an increase from the 80 under the original 2026 format, that will last nearly six weeks from June to July in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

The tournament is being hosted in 16 different cities: 11 in the U.S., three in Mexico and two in Canada.

Ahead of the expansion, Canada was allotted 10 matches.

Chris May, general manager of B.C. Place, says they feel the matches would probably be split evenly between Vancouver and Toronto. Tuesday's news raises the prospect of more matches in Vancouver.

"Just the potential of more is very exciting to us," May said.

He says there is a lot of work to be done, including replacing the artificial turf at B.C. Place with a grass field to meet FIFA requirements.

"We know that we'll need to bring a watering system in, a lighting system in, and then bring in the real grass," May said. "But right now FIFA is working through exactly how do they make that happen consistently across 16 stadiums in different climates and three different countries."

20,000 hotel rooms needed by 2050: study

Planning will also be needed away from the pitch.

A study released last week by Destination Vancouver showed that without an increase of hotel rooms in Metro Vancouver, the provincial economy could lose out on billions of dollars over the next few decades.

According to the data, to close the gap between supply and demand, 20,000 rooms are needed in Metro Vancouver by 2050, with 10,000 of those rooms needed in the City of Vancouver alone.

Maggie MacPherson/CBC
Maggie MacPherson/CBC

"That's tens of thousands of jobs and millions in lost economic impact if we don't deliver on that," said Vancouver Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung. "It's super important for sport hosting and incredibly important for a tourism sector here in Vancouver.

Royce Chwin of Destination Vancouver says the World Cup's impact on the tourism sector will last beyond the tournament.

"We know that it will expose Vancouver in global markets in different ways than we've had the opportunity before to try to drive business, business conferences or leisure travel, or put Vancouver on display for other reasons besides sports," Chwin said.

That excitement is shared by the team at B.C. Place.

"We talk about bringing people to this beautiful province, introducing them here and knowing that Vancouver is that gateway to getting people in here and then seeing all of B.C.," May said.

"I don't think there's a better place to start."