‘It’ll be nothing like anything we’ve held in this city’: 5 things we learned from FIFA exec Victor Montagliani

The soccer czar sat down with the Vancouver Board of Trade's Bridgitte Anderson for an interview about the 2026 World Cup.

Credit: Greater Vancouver Board of Trade

The soccer czar sat down with the Vancouver Board of Trade’s Bridgitte Anderson for an interview about the 2026 World Cup

The Vancouver Convention Centre was packed to the brim with grey and blue suits on Wednesday afternoon. And while most events put on by the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade attract healthy crowds, this one felt a little different. Only a few topics can bring out some of the city’s most powerful businesspeople and politicians in the middle of a work day. It turns out soccer and, more specifically, the 2026 World Cup—which will be hosted in North America—fall under that umbrella.

It didn’t hurt that the upcoming World Cup has Victor Montagliani as its chairperson of North American operations. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone more passionate about the sport than Montagliani. Here are five things we leaned from his talk with GVBOT president and CEO Bridgitte Anderson.

1. The 2026 World Cup will be personal for Montagliani 

As the president of CONCACAF—the confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football—Montagliani has travelled across the continent and then some in promoting football and being one of its North American faces internationally. But it’s also clear that his heart is still in his hometown. 

“I’m still that 12-year-old kid kicking the ball against the fence at Garden Park in East Vancouver,” he said. “It’s guided everything I’ve done. It’s all about the sport.”

Internationally, he said, “some people knock Vancouver as a sporting city. This is an opportunity to change that.”

2. FIFA has a tight relationship with local politicians

There was a bit of back-and-forth when it came to Vancouver’s FIFA bid from the provincial government. But it appears there are no hard feelings politically. Mayor Ken Sim and many other Vancouver councillors attended the event, and Montagliani spoke positively about the NDP government he worked with in bringing games to Vancouver, specifically mentioning former premier John Horgan, as well as ministers Mike Farnworth and Rob Fleming.

3. The hotel room issue looms large

Metro Vancouver is dealing with a serious hotel shortage. As Frances Bula wrote for BCBusiness back in October:

“One major hotel operator told me they started getting so many bookings in April and May that they had to turn people away because they couldn’t bring back staff fast enough. The city is preparing for some big influxes of visitors in the coming decade, with the Invictus Games in 2025, FIFA World Cup matches in 2026, and possibly the Winter Olympics in 2030. And the current count on hotel rooms is 23,292 in 163 properties in all of Metro Vancouver, with just over 13,000 of those in Vancouver itself.” 

Montagliani confirmed that he has been having conversations with the appropriate authorities with regard to the huge influx of tourists that are going to come to the city needing somewhere to stay. He seemed confident, even if he didn’t offer up any concrete solutions.

He also used the opportunity to throw a joke at the matter: “Or we can use a bunch of basement suites in Burnaby, I know some guys.”

4. Vancouverites can expect at least five World Cup games

“If I had a loonie every time someone asked me this…” said Montagliani when pressed about how many World Cup games Vancouver might host. “I don’t see Vancouver getting less than five,” he said, noting that they would likely take place over a span of about three weeks. “Hopefully we’ll get more.” He also said that it was likely that Team Canada would play in both Canadian host cities (Toronto is the other one). 

5. Everything else might pale in comparison to this, including the Olympics 

“We’ve put on big events,” said Montagliani. “But this will be ‘unbelievable’ on steroids. Nothing we’ve done will be anything close to this. The average audience in Qatar was 375 million. That’s three times the Super Bowl.”

Montagliani also hoped that hosting the games will spur a different way of thinking for Canadian soccer fans. “I want this sport to speak Canadian,” he said. “It speaks UK English, Italian, French. That’s fine, you can be a fan of those clubs. But when you peel off those jerseys, the one closest to your skin should be the Canadian jersey. And the second-closest should be your local club.”