While some fans with strong ties to either of the cities in question may not agree, on balance it’s reasonable to hold the face-value opinion that Toronto and Vancouver both got a fair rub of the green from the 2026 FIFA World Cup hosting schedule.

The total of 13 games in Canada split as evenly as possible from an odd number sees Vancouver host seven matches while Toronto will hold six at BMO Field.

But a look closer reveals that, in terms of both watching the Canadian men’s national team do their thing on the biggest stage and watching knockout World Cup soccer, the World Cup in Canada will be very much Vancouver’s party. CanMNT will kick off their group stage in Toronto before swinging out west to Vancouver for at least their next two games. If CanMNT make it to the round of 32, they will play that game at BC Place too. If they make it as far as the last-16, they’ll stay in Vancouver for one more round.

Given the Toronto-centric nature of much Canadian sports media, the emphasis on Vancouver raised a few eyebrows.

So what was the rationale behind the decision? Was it based on BC Place’s currently far larger capacity than BMO Field, or something else?

Speaking on the Donnie and Dhali Show, FIFA vice president and CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani explained the choice to base CanMNT in Vancouver for the majority of however long the team’s tournament runs.

“Toronto’s a great city, they’re really behind [the tournament],” Montagliani said. “I think they deserve the opening match, to be honest with you, from a Canada perspective. It was almost equal, there’s only one game more that Vancouver has, which was the round of 16. That has a little bit to do with the size of the stadium but really also the match schedule.

“As soon as Canada are coming west for their second game and staying here, it has to flow. If we’re only going to get one round-of-16 game, it was natural to have it come in the west where Canada were going to play their last group-stage game, and then you move down the west coast.”

Given the numerical and geographical scale of this World Cup, which will total a massive 104 games this year after its large expansion and will run across three vast countries, the majority of games will be strategically played within three regionalized zones – east, central, and west.

Montagliani had revealed last week that FIFA had sought the input of the head coaches of CanMNT, USMNT, and Mexico in deciding where the three host nations should be based for the majority of the group stage, as well as where they should each open their own schedules. Evidently, it was decided by committee that opening CanMNT’s tournament in Toronto at Canada Soccer’s official national stadium made the most sense, but that basing the majority of team camp in Vancouver was the way to go.

Related read: Steiner: Basing CanMNT in Vancouver for the 2026 FIFA World Cup is the right decision on many fronts

One point of discussion in the leadup to and the wake of the announcement has been the playing surface at BC Place, with the Vancouver artificial turf touted as a potential concern.

Montagliani brushed aside those worries.

“It’s not just BC Place, pretty much every stadium we have in the U.S., even the ones that are grass, will require a lot of improvements to get them up to World Cup level and BMO Field is running through the same process. And it’s quite the process, you have to lift the field, put irrigation underneath, proper lighting and air circulation…”

Ultimately, while Canada had initially been slated for 10 games at the World Cup alongside Mexico before the tournament’s expansion, the final slate of 13 was the maximum that Canada could have been given in their three-way split with Mexico and the US for a tournament that is, let’s be frank, mostly one big American event.

“The amount of games we have, I think we maxed out on what we could have,” Montagliani added. “And then, as a Vancouverite, having seven games including two knockout games and a potential of four Canadian games, two for sure, it probably doesn’t get better than that.”