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Should Burnaby get involved in FIFA World Cup celebrations in 2026?

Vancouver will host seven FIFA World Cup games in 2026.
Canadian soccer fans cheered loud and proud in their 2022 World Cup opener in Qatar.

Burnaby staff are pondering if the city should piggyback on Vancouver’s 2026 FIFA World Cup celebrations.

Whether as a host for international team practices at Swangard Stadium or through planning events to help residents feel part of the excitement, staff asked the city’s parks and recreation committee for feedback June 11.

The 2026 FIFA World Cup will run from June 11 to July 19, with Vancouver hosting seven games between June 13 and July 7.

Burnaby’s director of recreation Judy Hamanishi said there are opportunities for international team practices at Swangard Stadium, Canada game watch parties, live e-sports tournaments and festival activities.

Participation would celebrate Burnaby as a centre for elite and recreational soccer and encourage volunteerism, said Emmaline Hill, director of cultural services.

But hosting those events would impact existing community programming, particularly at Swangard Stadium, a popular venue for summer festivals.

Holding FIFA events at Swangard could impact the Harry Jerome Track Classic, Bubble Tea Festival, Fiji Festival, eight semi-professional soccer games and more cultural festivals and concerts.

While there would be more availability at the Burnaby Lake Recreation Complex, youth players would still be impacted by primetime bookings, Hamanishi said.

FIFA involvement would need resources including front-facing event staff and internal planning staff, Hill said.

She said the city could also consider adding a new, temporary staff position in early 2025 to coordinate planning and partnerships.

'Once in a lifetime'

The committee was generally positive, despite some misgivings.

Resident representative Rainy Kent said while she sees “huge benefits” to involvement, losing field space in the summertime would take “a lot of massaging” in communicating the event as a benefit.

Resident representative Gary Cheng said the chance to be involved in FIFA is a “once in a lifetime experience.”

He added, as a youth hockey coach, he could see the benefit in having kids see pros in action, if possible.

“It might actually be better that they get to watch professionals train and play … rather than playing themselves, from a coaching aspect,” Cheng said.

Tourism Burnaby representative Robyn Hughes said her understanding is that FIFA will do any competition-specific training in June and July as closed practices on City of Vancouver fields as part of their agreement.

But she said there is a tourism opportunity in the training camps before that, particularly at the lodge rooms at Christine Sinclair Community Centre.

Coun. James Wang said it would be “very cool” for Burnaby to host FIFA e-sports-related events and suggested partnering with Burnaby-based video game developer EA, the previous long-time producer of the FIFA video game franchise.

Coun. Sav Dhaliwal said the idea was exciting but noted displacing existing events and programs can be tough.

He warned staff: “You’re going to have to do a lot more work on this one,” he said, both in creating partnerships and lessening the impact on people who depend on the city’s programs and amenities.

FIFA World Cup 2026: Vancouver match dates

  • Saturday, June 13 | Match 6 | Group Stage
  • Thursday, June 18 | Match 27 | Group Stage (Canada Game 2)
  • Sunday, June 21 | Match 40 | Group Stage
  • Wednesday, June 24 | Match 51 | Group Stage (Canada Game 3)
  • Friday, June 26 | Match 64 | Group Stage
  • Thursday, July 2 | Match 85 | Round of 32
  • Tuesday, July 7 | Match 96 | Round of 16