FIFA and U.S. Soccer will hold a virtual workshop with prospective host cities for the 2026 World Cup on July 7, as the governing bodies edge closer to finalizing the 10 U.S. locations that will host matches during the tournament.
The original in-person workshop was scheduled to take place in March but was pushed back due to the coronavirus. Individual meetings with the 17 remaining host cities will also be conducted in the coming weeks.
“This city selection process is a natural continuation from the bid [process] and is an opportunity for us to get to know the cities and stadiums in better detail,” Colin Smith, FIFA chief tournaments and events officer, said on a conference call.
FIFA and U.S. Soccer originally planned on settling venue locations next spring, but a delay in mandatory stadium inspections will push that deadline back, Smith said. No new deadline was provided on the call.
A new inspection schedule is expected to be drawn up by the beginning of the fourth quarter. FIFA and U.S. Soccer will weigh all aspects of a city in the selection process, from airports and hospitality accommodations to weather and time zones.
“There is no one golden thread that runs through a host city,” Smith said. “It’s an integration of many different factors that we look at.”
U.S. host cities like Kansas City, New York, and Miami will be represented by a mix of franchise team owners across multiple sports, stadium level executives, and political figures during the virtual workshop, according to Dan Flynn, the former U.S. Soccer CEO who is helping oversee U.S. city selections.
Each stadium still in the mix provides enough seating capacity, he said. Cities with older venues like Gillette Stadium, a part of Boston’s bid, are still viable to host games even if upgrades are needed. No specific stadiums in line to host the 2026 World Cup Final were mentioned. FIFA requires that venue to be able to seat a minimum of 80,000 people.
“The 2026 World Cup is a tremendous opportunity for our sport in our country,” Flynn said. “We’re looking at it in terms of capitalizing on opportunity between now and 2026 with the overall [question] of what does our industry look like the day after the World Cup?”
The U.S. last hosted the Men’s World Cup in 1994. The country also hosted the 2003 Women’s World Cup. Flynn said the 1994 event was a unique opportunity for the country, while the chance to host the Women’s World Cup came about just months before the tournament began.
“We’ve got 20-plus years of experience since hosting in 1994,” Flynn said. “I think that [promoting the event] takes on a greater role than it certainly did back then, but I also think there’s just greater opportunity for our sport which has grown to a different level.”
The current cities and venues in the running include:
- Atlanta (Mercedes-Benz Stadium)
- Baltimore (M&T Bank Stadium)
- Boston (Gillette Stadium)
- Cincinnati (Paul Brown Stadium)
- Dallas (AT&T Stadium)
- Denver (Empower Field at Mile High)
- Houston (NRG Stadium)
- Kansas City (Arrowhead Stadium)
- Los Angeles (Rose Bowl and SoFi Stadium)
- Miami (Hard Rock Stadium)
- Nashville (Nissan Stadium)
- New York/ New Jersey (MetLife Stadium)
- Orlando (Camping World Stadium)
- Philadelphia (Lincoln Financial Field)
- San Francisco/Bay Area (Levi’s Stadium)
- Seattle (CenturyLink Field)
- Washington, D.C. (FedEx Field)