While the 2022 World Cup is just one year away, energy and attention is already being placed on the 2026 tournament. With Canada, Mexico, and the United States slated to co-host and 48 teams participating, the 2026 tournament is primed to be one of the biggest football events ever. The question is now: which stadiums will host?
In July, the process of selection kicked into high gear with FIFA representatives as well members of the host associations holding in-person meetings with each venue. These meetings were based off of previous online workshops where FIFA provided organizers with their strategic plan and goals.
In a press release from July, FIFA shed some light on how they will assess each stadium saying, “As per the focus areas for assessment shared during the candidate host city workshops last year, while stadiums remain the foundation for the successful hosting of a FIFA World Cup, FIFA considers that providing key infrastructure and services (both sporting and general) and realising the commercial potential of each venue, as well as in terms of sustainability, human rights and event legacy, is of the utmost importance.”
While much of the selection process is still clouded in secrecy, FIFA did mention in the same press release that a decision would likely be made in the last quarter of 2021. The structure of how these venue bids will be divided up amongst the three countries is also known with Canada getting two venues, Mexico receiving three, and the United States receiving eleven.
Outside of the United States, there really isn’t much up for debate. With Montreal pulling out, Toronto’s BMO Field and Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium are the only two remaining bids. The original bid called for seven matches to be played in Canada but with just two stadiums still in the running that may be difficult. There has been some conversation about Vancouver returning to the mix after city officials balked at FIFA’s hosting requirements.
As for Mexico, Mexico City (Estadio Azteca), Leon (Estadio Bancomer), and Guadalajara (Estadio Akron) will all be used to cover their ten matches. What will be interesting to see is if Azteca is actually granted the opening match, which was included in the original bid proposal a concession put in to get the Mexican FA on board with this World Cup.
While Canada and Mexico are largely sewn up, the selection process for the United States is still very much up for grabs. With sixteen cities (Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Cincinnati, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington D.C.) contending for eleven spots it is a pretty tight race and to their credit FIFA haven’t really tipped their hands as to who the favorites are.
There are some obvious candidates with Dallas, Los Angeles, and New York extreme favorites. But beyond those three there are a lot of questions. Does Washington D.C. receive a bid despite FedEx Field likely to be torn down within 1-2 years of the tournament? How much will Seattle’s turf field play a role in whether they make the cut? Can two Florida cities make it and it will be at the expense of a city in the Northeast?
While FIFAs official visits may be done and dusted there are still plenty of questions to be answered. With a decision expected to be made in the before the end of the year, it appears that the race to snap up a coveted World Cup hosting spot is still very much alive.