The united North American bid to host the 2026 World Cup won the day on Wednesday. The United States, Mexico and Canada will co-host the largest version of the world’s grandest soccer tournament. It marks the World Cup’s return to U.S. soil for the first time in 32 years.
The news represents a number of firsts, both in terms of the event, but also for the bid.
The joint venture is a new model for FIFA regarding the World Cup. Never before has more than one county hosted the tournament, but major destinations have become increasingly squeamish about the financial burden of hosting large-scale sporting events. For instance, the 2020 UEFA European Football Championship will be spread across 12 different countries.
The 2026 World Cup will also feature a record 48 teams (32 will play in this year’s event), which translates to more than 1,100 players. Early estimates suggest the month-long tournament will have a $5 billion economic impact when factoring in the 150 training sites needed, not to mention hotels across the winning countries.
The Big 3
We may never know whether the U.S. would have won the World Cup alone. But Carlos Cordeiro, president of U.S. Soccer and co-chair of the United Bid, credits the joint effort for the lopsided victory over Morocco. The vote came on the eve of this year’s World Cup in Russia.
“We were a much more compelling opportunity coming together as three nations,” he says. “It will be a great celebration of football.”
Now that the United Bid has been awarded the World Cup, Cordeiro and his co-chairs face the daunting task of narrowing the field of 23 prospected host cities down to a final 16. Destinations are already making their pitch to be among the last group standing.
“We want Dallas to be on the international stage for sports and we are committed more than ever to being a World Cup host city in 2026,” says Monica Paul, executive director of the Dallas Sports Commission. “Dallas had a great experience as a host in 1994 and we have developed into one of the top areas in the country for soccer.”
Cordeiro admits he is not looking forward to the final cuts.
Plans call for 60 of the 80 games to be played in the U.S., which will host all matches from the quarterfinals to the championship. MetLife Stadium outside New York is the early favorite for the final, which was held at the Rose Bowl in California in 1994.
Cordeiro says the news should spark renewed interest in soccer at home. It is certainly some good news months after the U.S. was eliminated from this year’s World Cup—a failure that caused serious introspection throughout the U.S. soccer community.
“We believe this event will be a lightning rod and transformational,” he says. “Kids who are now eight, 10 or 12 can dream of playing for the national team. We believe soccer will become the preeminent sport in North America.”