Even though Morocco came in with a last-second bid to host the 2026 World Cup, the odds-on favorite is the CONCACAF bid from the US, Canada and Mexico. 49 stadiums across 44 cities bid to host games, with the anticipation of between 20-25 stadiums and 12 or more cities in line to host games.
But which stadiums and cities have the best chance of hosting games in nine years time? Here are the stadiums and cities, broken down by their likelihood of hosting games:
Unlikely, if impossible:
Birmingham (Legion Field), Cincinnati (Paul Brown Stadium), Detroit (Ford Field), Dallas (Cotton Bowl), Indianapolis (Lucas Oil Stadium), New Orleans (Mercedes-Benz Superdome), Salt Lake City (Rice-Eccles Stadium), San Antonio (Alamodome), San Diego (Qualcomm Stadium).
Some of these stadiums are either too old, too small or not centrally located enough in comparison to other potential venues that would make sense. Detroit hosted games during the 1994 World Cup at the Silverdome, but that novelty wore off fast and with the number of retractable roof stadiums that are better equipped than some of these domes, places like the Alamodome are likely out of the running.
Not likely, but not impossible:
Baltimore (M&T Bank Stadium), Charlotte (Bank of America Stadium), Cleveland (FirstEnergy Stadium), Sports Authority Field (Denver), Green Bay (Lambeau Field), Jacksonville (EverBank Field), Kansas City (Arrowhead Stadium), Nashville (Nissan Stadium), Pittsburgh (Heinz Field).
Most of these stadiums, except Pittsburgh and Green Bay, do have very good history with international soccer. But many of these cities are too close to a more suitable city that will almost certainly host to be considered. Though thinking about it, how awesome would World Cup games at Lambeau Field be, even though there’s next to no chance of that happening.
Houston (NRG Stadium), Las Vegas (Raiders Stadium), Minneapolis (US Bank Stadium), Orlando (Camping World Stadium), Philadelphia (Lincoln Financial Field), Seattle (CenturyLink Field), Tampa (Raymond James Stadium), Washington D.C. (FedEx Field).
Orlando hosted games during the 1994 World Cup, but that was because then-Pro Player Stadium was undergoing some renovations. Because of that, and the likelihood that there will not be two stadiums used in Florida, Orlando and Tampa both fall here, despite both having great soccer traditions and heritage. Washington is also here, although they’re more likely to host than not, simply because it’s the nation’s capital, in spite of the stadium being very poor. Minneapolis is also intriguing, but the most intriguing stadium of them all is in Vegas. Because of soccer’s connections with gambling, it’s not likely that games will be there, but it’s certainly possible.
Atlanta (Mercedes-Benz Stadium), Boston (Gillette Stadium), Chicago (Soldier Field), Dallas (AT&T Stadium), Miami (Hard Rock Stadium), New York (MetLife Stadium), San Francisco (Levi’s Stadium), one Los Angeles Stadium (Coliseum, Rose Bowl, Rams Stadium).
All of these cities, sans Atlanta, hosted games during the 1994 World Cup, and all are pretty much guaranteed to host again. Since FIFA requires the host stadiums for the opening game and Final to have capacities beyond 80,000, it means MetLife, AT&T and one of the LA triad will host those games, as if there was any doubt they wouldn’t be involved. Chicago, Boston and San Francisco all will have games because of the clout of those cities and their individual soccer histories as well.
Host of the Opening Game: MetLife Stadium
Host of the Final: LA at Inglewood
MetLife will host the opening game of the tournament, and LA will probably host the Final. While the Rose Bowl is certainly a romantic home for the Final, as it was in 1994, the new Rams Stadium in Inglewood with its 100,000 seat capacity when expanded is going to make mouths water at FIFA.
If Canada and Mexico each have three stadiums used, that would leave the US with between 14 to 19, based on the bid committee’s estimates. For the sake of this projection, we’ll go with the conservative prediction of 14 US stadiums and the three from the other two countries, leaving us with these venues as projected hosts of the 2026 World Cup:
Mexico: Mexico City (Estadio Azteca), Guadalajara (Estadio Chivas), Monterrey (Estadio Rayados).
Canada: Vancouver (BC Place), Toronto (Rogers Centre), Montreal (Olympic Stadium).
US: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Gillette Stadium, Soldier Field, AT&T Stadium, Hard Rock Stadium, MetLife Stadium, Levi’s Stadium, Rams at Inglewood, Rose Bowl, FedEx Field, CenturyLink Field, Lambeau Field, Lincoln Financial Field, NRG Stadium.
All that’s left is for the bid to be accepted, which despite the competition, feels like a rubber stamp.