Soccer fans — and Vancouver businesses — are celebrating news that FIFA has approved an expanded format for the 2026 Men’s World Cup.
FIFA confirmed Tuesday that the tournament will see the number of participating countries expanded from 32 to 48. There will be an additional 24 matches, for a total of 104 games played, and the event will last 39 days.
What wasn’t clear Tuesday was whether the expanded format would mean additional games in Canada or Vancouver.
The city is guaranteed to host at least five games, and the province said Tuesday it was still waiting for more information on what the changes mean.
But while it’s uncertain if B.C. Place will get to host a half-dozen or more games, local businesses were already celebrating the expanded tournament.
Doug Meaker, general manager at Vancouver’s Butcher and Bullock pub, said his business was packed even at odd hours in the middle of the night as it aired every game from the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
He said the addition of more games will only mean a bigger opportunity for bars and restaurants to capitalize on the next tournament.
“Just based on the turnouts we had just recently, it’s only going to double. And being in Canada as well, we’re going to see such a giant influx of tourism,” Meaker said.
“It’s exciting times. Four years is a little far away, but geez we’re getting prepared for it already.”
The expansion will also provide another opportunity for the hospitality industry to make up for losses it is still recovering from during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Alliance of B.C. Licensees executive director Jeff Guignard.
“Adding these extra games to the schedule means we have more opportunities to put some bums in seats and to make some revenue for a sector that was the hardest hit by the pandemic,” he said.
“Although it’s four years away, there’s a lot of planning that goes into making sure we have those games hosted in Vancouver and we have all the necessary programing in place for it.”
Guigarnd said there’s not much individual businesses can do at this stage, but he said the province and the city can lay the groundwork by promoting the event and preparing the city for an influx of tourists.
“People come out in droves for things like this,” he said.
“These kinds of events can have lasting impacts on our economy and our city; you can even see people going to more local sports when they watch other activities like that because they get the bug.”
Destination BC and BC Stats estimate that hosting would bring in more than $1 billion in new tourism revenue during the games, as well as in the five years that follow.