For the first time ever, the biggest sporting event on the planet is coming to the Delaware Valley.
Philadelphia was announced Thursday by FIFA as one of of 17 cities across North America chosen to host matches during the 2026 World Cup.
The 2026 World Cup, which will be the first ever held across three separate countries, will mark the 23rd edition of the international soccer tournament and the first time Philadelphia has been involved as a host site. The closest the tournament came to Pennsylvania previously was in 1994, the first United States-hosted World Cup, when games were played in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Needless to say, it's a huge deal.
Here's the full list of the host cities:
- Vancouver (Canada)
- San Francisco/Bay Area
- Los Angeles
- Guadalajara (Mexico)
- Kansas City
- Monterrey (Mexico)
- Mexico City (Mexico)
- Toronto (Canada)
- New York/New Jersey
Each city in consideration made a pitch to FIFA, which ultimately made the decision on host sites. Factors included the stadium, which must have a field capable of seamlessly converting into a soccer pitch, as well as training facilities, accommodations, public transportation and public funding.
"To have it in the City of Philadelphia where we have so much history in soccer," Philadelphia Union head coach and Montgomery County native Jim Curtin told NBC Sports Philadelphia this week, "we have so much culture, to have all the international people come here and experience our city, it's such a diverse city and there's so much for them to come and experience - from restaurants to all the different things the city brings - it'll be truly special.
The World Cup was last held in the United States in 1994. The nine host sites that year included Los Angeles, San Francisco/Stanford, New Jersey, Foxboro, Washington D.C., Orlando, Dallas, Chicago, and Detroit. Philadelphia had a bid that year as well, but struck out on landing games.
This time around, things were different.
"The energy is great here. It's meant to be able to host a sports event like [the World Cup], for sure," Philadelphia Union star Alejandro Bedoya told NBC Sports Philadelphia this week. "And then you talk about the economic impact it'll have here for the city, we look to see after this pandemic how Center City has changed over the years. I think this could have a massive impact, too.
"And hey, it's the semi-quincentennial birthday of America. So it's a huge celebration. How could the World Cup not be here?"
The 2026 World Cup will mark the first expansion of the field since 1998. After seven previous World Cups, including this year's 2022 World Cup, included 48 teams, the 2026 World Cup will include 64 teams. Instead of eight groups of four teams in the group stage, the event will have 16 groups of three teams.
This year's World Cup, which is being held in Qatar, begins Nov. 20. NBC Sports Philadelphia and NBC10 sister station Telemundo62 will air games for in this year's tournament.