Canada isn’t in the World Cup right now, but that won’t stop us making it all about us. Now that we know Canada will be co-hosting the 2026 FIFA World Cup alongside the U.S. and Mexico, we thought it would be a good idea to look at the state of our country’s prospective World Cup venues. Today, we’ll be looking at Toronto, and our own BMO Field.
BMO Field is a place most of us know like the back of our hands. Plenty of us are there almost every week to see Toronto FC. Still, it’s absolutely worth discussing the stadium as a potential World Cup venue. The city of Toronto featured heavily in the United Bid’s video shown at the FIFA Congress two weeks ago, and we expect it to be a major piece of the Canadian component of the 2026 tournament.
BMO Field, Toronto
First opened: 2007 (Renovated 2014-2016)
Main tenant: Toronto FC (MLS), Toronto Argonauts (CFL)
Field surface: Grass
The home of Toronto FC has a very strong soccer pedigree in its short history. It’s hosted the second-most MLS Cup Finals with three (tied with D.C.’s RFK Stadium, and behind the Stubhub Center in Los Angeles). It hosted 12 games at the Men’s U-20 World Cup in 2007 (including the final), and two in the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
All-time, the Canadian men’s national team has played at BMO 16 times (by my count), with an 8-1-7 record. The women’s national team is 2-3-1 at BMO, which would probably be considered one of the home venues for Canada’s national programs (if not the home venue).
BMO Field is much younger than the other two candidate venues in Canada, although Commonwealth Stadium has almost been rebuilt within the last decade. Also the smallest of the three stadia, it only seats about 30,000 — smaller than FIFA’s preferred minimum of 40,000. That said, it can be expanded, and has been in the past: it held 40,148 for the Centennial Classic in 2017. In fact, the United Bid’s proposal indicates that BMO Field will be able to fit a capacity of 45,500 for the World Cup.
There’s plenty of room at BMO for expansion, either permanent or temporary. Bleachers can be set up in the empty north end, which is the logical next step in adding to the stadium (although currently there’s no stand there because of the Argos’ field length requirements). An additional stand can also be put up behind the south end, as we all saw during TFC’s 2016 playoff run.
When BMO Field was first built, it cost $62.9 million. Its later expansion and renovation, adding the second tier to the east grandstand as well as the partial roof, cost about $120 million. It was effectively born out of Canada’s successful bid for the 2007 U-20 World Cup, as the Canadian Soccer Association looked for a place to build the stadium they’d promised.
Since the City of Toronto owned the land at Exhibition Place, they provided the space. Ultimately, the bill for BMO Field was paid in part by the City, the Canadian government, the Ontario government, and MLSE — who had announced plans to bring an MLS team to Toronto. The municipal government still owns the site, and MLSE pays rent to them.
BMO is the only Canadian candidate city with a natural grass field already in place, which is a huge plus. That’ll save some money that could potentially be put toward expansion or (if the City is involved) congestion relief for transit.
Exhibition Place is pretty well-served by public transit, with the Exhibition GO station right there (one stop west of Toronto’s central Union station). It’s also got a streetcar loop with routes that go to both Union and Bathurst stations, plus the King streetcar a little further north at the edge of Liberty Village.
Interestingly, the United Bid also mentions John Tory’s proposed SmartTrack commuter rail project (which would connect the Bloor-Danforth subway line, Mississauga, Scarborough, and Markham to Liberty Village) almost as a certainty. It also refers to the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, which is expected to open in 2021.
The only main issue for BMO in terms of transit accessibility is the tunnel under the GO station, which is a nightmare after games. It’s the only real route from Exhibition Place into Liberty Village, barring the bridges on the western and eastern edges of the area. Hopefully something can be done about that in time for the World Cup — either a widened tunnel at the very least, or ideally a bridge across the train tracks.
It’s difficult to get out to BMO from downtown in rush hour, but there likely isn’t much that can be done about that; it’s primarily the virtue of being a large city. Still, it can sure be frustrating trying to make a 7 p.m. midweek kickoff!
The United Bid book lists plenty of other info about Toronto, including local training facilities — Lamport Stadium, Cherry Beach, Sunnybrook Park, and of course the BMO Training Ground are all specifically mentioned. The bid book also mentions every location’s distance from Pearson Airport, which isn’t really too far out of the way, although it’s possible that by 2026 Billy Bishop will be able to accommodate teams’ charters from around the continent, at least from cities around the Northeastern U.S. and Montreal.
BMO Field will probably make an excellent World Cup venue, and it’s apparently likely to host one of three simultaneous opening matches in 2026. If Canada does automatically qualify, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Toronto get at least one if not two of their games. Plus, the bid book mentions that BMO will get a round of 16 match.
Toronto is one of the largest cities included in the bid, and it has 49.9% foreign-born residents. It’s the most popular tourist destination in Canada. It’s incredibly diverse, with various areas of the city always going nuts for the World Cup. Regardless of what teams play here in 2026, BMO Field is sure to be packed.