Is the World Cup good for Canada’s economy?

Like us after putting down a non-refundable deposit to book the perfect venue for a birthday party, Vancouver and Toronto are hoping that playing host will be worth it.  

Driving the news: In 2026, Vancouver and Toronto will host seven and six FIFA World Cup matches, respectively. Neither city has given an updated cost estimate since 2022, so now attention has turned to figuring out how much hosting will cost, and whether it’s worth it.

  • In 2022, Toronto estimated that hosting would cost the city $300 million dollars, but that projection was made with the expectation it would host five games, not six.
  • Vancouver claimed hosting duties would cost $250 million, but part of that is going towards sprucing up B.C. Place — an endeavour plagued with cost overruns in the past. 

Why it matters: Sides are split on just how much economic benefit the World Cup will bring. City officials are championing the tourney — with Toronto estimating a ~$1.2 billion boost to Canada’s GDP — while economists, pointing to decades of historical data, are less chipper. 

  • Experts are skeptical of tourism benefits, as the event takes place during the already-busy summer, potentially offsetting gains by displacing non-footie-crazed tourists.

  • As one economist told The Canadian Press, “There is almost no way that people don’t know what Toronto is, and Vancouver, of course, is in a very similar situation.”

Big picture: Massive international sporting events are growing less attractive to host due to high costs or, in some cases, the displacement of people. The balance sheet at the end of the World Cup could determine whether Canada will be motivated to bid for future events.

Yes, but: The economic value of the World Cup might be overstated, but the cultural value is incalculable. For a nation like Canada, whose love of the Beautiful Game is blossoming, the opportunity to host could be the first step in becoming a real-deal men’s soccer powerhouse in addition to a women’s one.—QH