Toronto sports fans are set to get a once-in-a-lifetime chance to watch the World Cup in their own city, after a joint North American bid to host the 2026 tournament won FIFA's approval on Wednesday morning.
Toronto FC's Jonathan Osorio, who was born in this city, summed up exactly how many soccer fans are feeling.
"!!!!!!!!!" the talented midfielder tweeted.
A joint bid from Canada, the United States and Mexico beat out Morocco to win the right to host the 2026 World Cup — the world's most widely-watched sporting event. Toronto is set to host between three and four games of the knockout stage at BMO Field, which will have its capacity bolstered by temporary seating.
Mayor John Tory, who has called this city "soccer mad," told reporters the tournament will be a great thing for Toronto, and he wants to host as many games as the organizers will allow.
Tory said Toronto's multicultural nature was a huge selling point for FIFA officials. You can have any two teams from any two countries play here, he said, and there will be excited fans from those countries.
"That's the reality of Toronto," said Tory, already wearing a 2026 scarf.
The mayor spoke alongside Toronto FC President Bill Manning and John Herdman, the head coach of Canada's national men's team. Herdman said today feels like soccer "Christmas."
The 2026 World Cup will be bigger than the tournament that's about to start in Russia. FIFA plans to have 48 teams playing a total of 80 games — 60 of which, including the final, will be played in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
Each host country is set to host 10 games each and their teams will likely get an automatic spot in the tournament. While the U.S. and Mexico are regulars at the Cup (only Mexico is competing this year), Canada hasn't competed in the tournament since 1986.
'It's a huge deal'
In Toronto's Little Italy, where televised World Cup games often attract huge, passionate crowds, fans were delighted to find out about FIFA's announcement.
"It's a huge deal, huge deal," said Joe Pereira.
He said he's already wondering who will play in this city.
"We'll see how many games we actually get."
Aidan Bahadori said bringing part of the massive tournament to the city will be an amazing spectacle. He fondly remembers watching Spanish fans swarm onto College Street while celebrating their 2010 World Cup win.
"I could literally body surf across the crowd from one side of the street to the other," he said.
City to spend upwards of $30M to host tournament
Despite the excitement, there are some concerns about the cost of security.
In a report released in January, Toronto city staff estimated it would cost the city between $30 million to $45 million to co-host the World Cup. But that price doesn't include security, something the city expects the provincial and federal governments to help with.
Tory says there is "protection built in" to the city's bid, so it can re-evaluate its participation if costs soar.
He calls the tax dollars the city is prepared to spend a "modest investment" that will generate a "huge return."
BMO Field would host the games, however it's unclear what changes FIFA will request at the Exhibition Place stadium Toronto FC and the CFL's Toronto Argos call home.
A number of smaller soccer fields in Toronto could be used as training and practice facilities, the report said.