FIFA picks 2026 World Cup cities and predicts soccer will be no 1 sport in the US
NEW YORK (AP) — The 16 cities of the first World Cup spread across three nations were revealedand FIFA president Gianni Infantino made a bold statement outlining the goal of the 2026 tournament, which will be played primarily in the United States.
“By 2026, soccer will be the number 1 sport in this part of the world,” he proclaimed.
Roughly four years before the soccer showcase hits the US, Mexico and Canada, there were already winners and losers on Thursday: Atlanta, Houston, Miami, Philadelphia, Seattle and Kansas City, Missouri were among the cities chosen. after missing out on hosting the 1994 tournament.
Baltimore, Cincinnati, Denver, Nashville, Tennessee and Orlando, Florida all missed the cut.
Eleven American stadiums were taken over, all from the NFL. Arlington, Texas; East Rutherford, New Jersey; Foxborough, Massachusetts, and Inglewood and Santa Clara, California, were holdover areas from the 1994 tournament that propelled American soccer to prominence.
Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca, which hosted the 1970 and 1986 finals, will become the first stadium in three World Cups, selected along with Guadalajara’s Akron Stadium and Monterrey’s BBVA Stadium.
BMO Field in Toronto and BC Place in Vancouver, British Columbia were chosen as hosts for the first time in Canada, while Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, Alberta was ruled out.
following the outdated FedEx Field recall in Landover, Maryland, the omission of Baltimore means this will be a rare World Cup with no games in the vicinity of a host’s capital.
“You can’t imagine a World Cup in the US without the capital city playing an important role,” said Colin Smith, FIFA’s director of competitions and events.
Infantino has promised a fan festival on Washington’s National Mall, and places in all three nations are up for grabs for training sites.
“The story is always who doesn’t get picked,” said US Soccer Federation President Cindy Parlow Cone.
Infantino’s goal of reaching the top of American sports appears to be quite an achievement. The NFL averaged 17.1 million television and digital viewers during its 2021 seasonwhile the The 2018 World Cup averaged 5.04 million on US English and Spanish television
“You are leading the world in many areas,” Infantino said of North America, “the goal has to be that you will also be leading the world in the No. 1 sport in the world.”
“I know it was laughter and laughter,” said the president of the Confederation of North America, Central America and the Caribbean, Victor Montagliani. “He wasn’t kidding.”
Infantino defended FIFA’s financial demands on candidate cities and states, which included sales tax exemptions. He said world cup income supports all 211 FIFA members and 75% could not sustain operations without the money.
“This is something that is definitely a fair compromise, taking into account the interest of the sport and the interests of the host countries,” he said.
The 1994 tournament set records with a total attendance of 3.59 million. and a mean of 68,991. US stadium capacities by 2026 are 60,000 and up.
“I think this part of the world doesn’t realize what’s going to happen here in 2026,” Infantino said. “These three countries will be upside down. The world will be invading Canada, Mexico and the United States.”
the tender plan selected in 2018 envisioned 60 games in the US for the first 48 Nations Cupincluding everyone from the quarterfinals, and 10 each in Mexico and Canada.
Specific sites for each round will be announced later, and Infantino said television schedules around the world will be a factor for the final, making Eastern and Central time zones more likely. FIFA has gradually delayed the start time of the final from 3:30 pm EDT to 10 am EDT for this year’s tournament, which is at 10 pm in Beijing.
The US selections did not include any of the nine stadiums used in 1994. The Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, and Camping World Stadium in Orlando were the only ones left in contention, and were among the sites ruled out of negotiations. with stadiums and cities continuing until just before the announcement.
New stadiums were selected in five areas used in 1994. AT&T Stadium in Texas in place of Dallas’ Cotton Bowl, SoFi Stadium in Inglewood for the Rose Bowl, and Levi’s Stadium for Stanford Stadium.
Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, and Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, replaced the adjacent demolished sites, Giants Stadium and Foxboro Stadium.
Three US locations have retractable roofs and Atlanta has a fixed roof. All stadiums in the US except Miami and Kansas City opened in 2002 or later.
Venues have a wider range of expensive seats than they did in 1994: the offer book listed a total of 3,757 luxury suites and 76,317 club seats, even before SoFi opened, which hosted this year’s Super Bowl.
Eight of the 11 stadiums in the United States have artificial turf and they have promised to install temporary turf. Dietmar Exler, chief operating officer of AMB Sports & Entertainment, whose NFL Falcons and Major League Soccer teams play at Mercedes-Benz, said grow lamps will be used.
“We will study very carefully with FIFA how we can manage and make sure we have the best natural grass available,” he said. “That’s one of the high-priority areas that we need to focus on.”
Some venues, notably SoFi, cannot currently accommodate a 75 x 115-yard (68 x 105-meter) field and would need renovations to remove seating near the sidelines. FIFA made similar demands before 1994, but backed off and allowed some narrower surfaces.
“We have to get some of the pinch points out,” Smith said. “It doesn’t have any material aspect about capacity.”
The Detroit area, where the former silver dome pontiac organized games, was eliminated in 2018 and Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium was the capital area’s contender after FedEx pulled out in April. Washington’s RFK Stadium was used in 1994.
Chicago, which hosted the 1994 season opener at Solider Field, declined to bid.citing FIFA requirements.
Unlike the site’s 1992 announcement during a press conference, the 2026 announcement was made during a show broadcast from the Fox studio in Manhattan.
“He has grown so much in my life,” said American star Christian Pulisic, “and I hope he can even take the next step.”