“All I want to see is Canada play in the World Cup in my lifetime!”
Sound familiar? Sure does.
For those Canadian Men’s National Team fans that never had the privilege to witness 1986, it looks like your wish may be coming true. As I have written in this space before, Canada is destined to be hosting the event in 2026. All the stars are lining up – North America’s turn in the cycle, our track record of hosting FIFA events, expanded World Cup, and the presence of Victor Montagliani at the head of CONCACAF.
The role of joint host with the United States and Mexico seems ideal. In all honesty, we are not equipped to be hosting the event on our own. Nor would we be, by the time 2026 rolls around. There would be too much infrastructure to create or update, and the costs would not justify the project. Many would argue with this, but that is a debate for another day. What is worthy of discussing is our current soccer stadium situation, and how we move forward in order to be prepared for 2026.
The numbers that have been thrown around by those in the know are 10 matches, split up between 2-6 cities. Obviously, both of Canada’s group matches would be located in this country. The rest is up in the air. Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver would be obvious candidates, plus Edmonton would be a strong contender. But for the purposes of this article, let’s examine Toronto.
It is the city that I was born and raised in. I have lived here all my life and seen it change immensely, especially in the last 20 years. I know it like the back of my hand. Toronto is becoming more dense by the day and it’s a dynamic hub for culture and diversity. There will be many that don’t like the idea, but Toronto is going to be centre stage for our participation. Whether fair or unfair, it will probably get most of the matches, including the pre-quarterfinal knockout fixtures. How that is to be showcased presents many opportunities.
No. Never. Not a chance. The Skydome, as I still call it, is a definite non starter. It is solely a baseball stadium now and a poor facility for housing soccer, especially for the pinnacle of the game. It has a track record for hosting events, including international friendlies, European club exhibitions, and CONCACAF Champions League. Regardless, this would be amateur and unacceptable. Any future renovation that is planned for it will be made to enhance the baseball experience, and rightfully so.
Another option would be to build a new stadium – one that can also accommodate high profile TFC matches, an NFL franchise, or an Olympic bid. Although this remains a possibility, I can’t see this happening. The NFL and the Olympics are pipedreams, and TFC has a relatively new and renovated stadium. This is where the best opportunity lies.
This is the most obvious and best choice. This is also where the Toronto Argonauts must finally exit stage left. Your destiny at Lamport Stadium awaits. But then again, the upstart Toronto Wolfpack might have something to say about that.
A final BMO renovation, that included an expansion, would be needed. This could come in many forms. Closed corners? A permanent north stand? A terrace behind the supporters section? The possibilities are endless. These are exciting times. A proper soccer cathedral. A Theatre of Dreams!
World Cup 2026 sure looks like a done deal. The joint bid all but guarantees it. There will be government money to spend, and investing some of it into BMO Field would be the most prudent decision. And fellow Torontonians, this might even get us the transit upgrades and expansions that are so desperately needed. Subways, bike paths, and LRT’s for everybody!
White elephant? I think not.
By William Jamieson