World Cup schedule reveal a reminder that the world is coming to Canada

Canada has known it is co-hosting the 2026 FIFA World Cup since June 2018 when the FIFA Congress chose the so-called united bid of Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. over Morocco. 

But Sunday’s partial reveal of the tournament schedule served as a timely reminder of what lies ahead, with dates and locations for the opening-round games for the three co-hosts plus other details of the expanded 48-team soccer showcase.

The Canadian men, currently ranked 48th in the world, will open play June 12, 2026, at Toronto’s BMO Field before flying to Vancouver for games June 18 and 24 at B.C. Place Stadium.

“It made it very real,” said veteran Canadian midfielder Jonathan Osorio, who will turn 34 on the day of Canada’s tournament opener. “To have a match schedule now and to know where the games will be, it’s put into perspective that the time is flying and this World Cup is coming. It’s exciting.”

“A real boost of reality,” interim Canada coach Mauro Biello said of Sunday’s announcement.

Sunday’s announcement was also a signpost for Sharon Bollenbach, executive director of World Cup Hosting 2026 at the City of Toronto.

“So many things moving forward — decisions, planning elements, getting partners (and) stakeholders on board — hinge on knowing the match schedule,” she said. “And so (Sunday’s) announcement was awesome for us. We’re very pleased with the results for Toronto — and, quite frankly, very pleased with the results for Vancouver.

“I think Canada did very, very well in the match schedule. There’s so many things that cascade out of having this information … It becomes very real when you see Toronto’s name on that schedule.”

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Canada and Mexico, which has three host cities to Canada’s two, will each host 13 matches with the U.S. staging the remaining 78 across its 11 host cities.

Toronto and Vancouver will each host five opening-round matches plus a round-of-32 knockout match. Vancouver will also stage a round-of-16 game.

“It’ll ignite a passion for the game,” said Biello, a former Canadian international. “Fans and Canadians will be able to live the passion and different cultures as people will be roaming our streets and stadiums, hotels and restaurants. When you think of all that it’s quite amazing.

“Having just lived that in Qatar (site of the 2022 tournament), I’m happy (for Canada),” he added, “because it’s a once-in-lifetime event. And it’s huge.”

With 45 teams yet to qualify, the full 104-game schedule won’t be filled out until the tournament draw in early December 2025.

World Cup qualifying has already started in CONMEBOL (South America), the AFC (Asia) and CAF (Africa).

CONCACAF, which covers North and Central America and the Caribbean, kicks off qualifying next month while the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) begins in September. UEFA (Europe) starts in March 2025.

As co-host, Canada avoids qualification. Instead, it will look to fill its calendar with friendly matches against quality opposition.

Canada missed out on the 1994 World Cup in the U.S., losing the first round of a two-legged intercontinental playoff with Australia in a penalty shootout (Australia then lost a second-round playoff to Argentina). But the Canadians still benefited from having the tournament so close, playing warm-up matches over 12 days on the eve of the competition against World Cup-bound Morocco (in Montreal), Brazil (Edmonton), Germany (Toronto), Spain (Montreal) and the Netherlands (Toronto).

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For those wondering, Canada played Morocco and Brazil to 1-1 ties and lost to Germany (2-0), Spain (2-0) and the Netherlands (3-0).

“I was just a player at Montreal Supra back in the day but I was in the stands and watching those games,” Biello recalled. 

“The conversations have already started,” he added, referencing plans for future friendlies.

Canada has enjoyed success playing at home in recent times. 

Before a 3-2 loss to Jamaica at BMO Field in November in the second leg of the CONCACAF Nations League quarterfinal, the Canadian men had gone unbeaten in 17 games (15-0-2) on home soil since a 3-0 loss to Mexico in March 2016 in a World Cup qualifier at Vancouver. 

Canada’s record was even better at BMO Field (15-0-7), dating back to a 2-0 loss to Peru in September 2010.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 5, 2024

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