Following a harrowing year for sports in 2020, FIFA recently announced its delayed plans to verify which sixteen cities across North America will host the upcoming 2026 Men’s FIFA World Cup. FIFA now plans to announce its plans in late 2021.
Until then, soccer fans across the world will have to wait to see which US cities FIFA will select now that Canadian and Mexican locations are verified. Canada will host 10 matches in Edmonton, Montreal, and Toronto, while Mexico will also host 10 matches in Guadalajara, Monterrey, and Mexico City.
The US will host a majority of the World Cup with 60 games total, which includes the quarter, semi, and finals. However, it’s unclear where the qualifying matches and the finals will be played—but that doesn’t mean local stadium owners aren’t campaigning for their home field.
Currently, FIFA executives are busy meeting with representatives of cities like Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Cincinnati, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, New York/New Jersey, Orlando, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington DC.
So far, here are the favorites from sports fans and stadium pundits.
East Rutherford, New Jersey
MetLife Stadium, the US’s most expensive arena and home to the New York Jets and New York Giants NFL franchises, would bring soccer fans from around the world to the tri-state area. Though New York City tends to get all the glory amongst travelers, New Jersey is the better candidate for hosting a sporting event.
Not only does the state have the infrastructure, but New Jersey’s sports betting options are some of the most competitive in the industry. Those stopping in East Rutherford for a World Cup match would have unprecedented access to the US’s top sportsbooks.
And, with the nearby Big Apple prepared to handle major lodging and entertainment concerns, it seems like MetLife Stadium is a shoo-in for the upcoming World Cup.
Though MetLife Stadium may be the US’s most expensive home field, AT&T Stadium in Texas isn’t far behind. Additionally, the Dallas Airport is one of the busiest on the continent, which bodes well for international travelers.
However, the stadium itself is fully equipped to handle a huge influx of soccer fans. In 2010, the stadium hosted a world record of 108,713 fans for the All-Star NBA game. Though the capacity would be less to accommodate a soccer pitch, the infrastructure is sound.
Additionally, AT&T stadium has some of the most exclusive VIP package experiences in its lower-level suites. Not to mention, owner and Cowboys GM Jerry Jones is already busy crafting a business plan for a World Cup hosting position.
The US’s Pacific Northwest region has one major benefit working in its favor: both Seattle and Portland are major soccer hubs for the US’s MLS and WMLS leagues. Lumen Field is home to the Seattle Sounders team.
With a capacity of 68,740 spectators, the location is fully prepared to handle an influx of soccer fans. Additionally, the stadium is ideal, as it’s less than two miles from Downtown Seattle and is located near all mass transit.
Lumen Field may not be the biggest or flashiest stadium, but its ample experience hosting soccer (including the Copa América Centenario in 2016) makes it a perfect candidate.
Hard Rock Stadium
Seattle isn’t the only city in the US that is a hotspot for soccer fans—there’s also Miami which wants to welcome the World Cup to its beaches. While the local Hard Rock Stadium is a perfect venue to host any major event (with ample proof after hosting Super Bowl 54 in 2020), the city also delivers on other major factors.
International transportation is one key appeal for the Sunshine State’s southern city, as it often receives flights from major hubs in Africa, Europe, and South America. Additionally, the city has hosted multiple soccer events to great success, including the 2014 and 2017 International Champions Cup, and El Clásico (between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid).
Though MetLife and AT&T Stadiums deliver on capacity and location, Seattle and Miami provide unique, soccer-loving havens for international travelers.