Ranking which U.S. cities should host 2026 World Cup games
The 2026 World Cup is a few years away but the 16 cities across the United States of America who are battling it out to host games will find out on June 16, 2022, if they have been successful.
This is going to be a huge moment in those host cities if they’re successful, as the host cities will be announced by FIFA at 5pm ET in New York City.
[ MORE: Full schedule for 2022 World Cup ]
FIFA have not confirmed how many of the host cities they will select from the U.S., Canada and Mexico. However, it is believed there will be 16 in total (10 from the USA and three each from Canada and Mexico). But that is still to be confirmed, as reports suggest one of the Canadian cities may be left out for an extra host city in the U.S.
The tournament will be the second time the USA has hosted the men’s World Cup (the first was 1994), the first time Canada has ever hosted the men’s tournament and the third time Mexico has hosted after hosting the 1970 and 1986 World Cups
Two of the three venues put forward in Canada (Edmonton could miss out; Toronto is a lock, while Vancouver joined the bid late on after Montreal pulled out) and three in Mexico (Guadalajara, Monterrey and Mexico City) are expected to host World Cup games.
That could leave 16 cities battling it out for 10 spots in the USA.
Latest update from FIFA
After confirming when the 16 host venues will be announced, FIFA also said the following in their statement:
- While stadiums represent an essential element of the selection process, FIFA is considering the overarching proposals presented by each candidate host city, which are broader in nature and also include ancillary events and venues, and key aspects such as sustainability, human rights, legacy, general infrastructure and financial impact.
- “During the past months we have had open exchanges with the candidate host cities on a number of different topics. We are very thankful and impressed by how dedicated and innovative they all are,” said FIFA’s Chief Tournaments & Events Officer, Colin Smith. “The host cities will be absolutely key to ensuring the successful delivery of the competition. We look forward to working with them to deliver what will undoubtably be the largest FIFA World Cup in history.”
The 2026 World Cup will be the largest in history with 80 games played overall, 60 of which will be in the USA and the entire tournament from the quarterfinal stage onwards will be in the U.S.
This has got us thinking: How do things stand for potential host cities since the announcement in 2018 that the U.S., Mexico and Canada would be hosting the expanded 48-team tournament?
Below we rank the 16 cities vying for the 10 host spots in the U.S., and share our thoughts on who we think deserves to have 2026 World Cup games.
Ranking potential 2026 World Cup venues
Host cities who make it
1. New York/New Jersey (MetLife Stadium)
2. Los Angeles (Rose Bowl Stadium or SoFi Stadium)
3. Miami (Hard Rock Stadium)
4. Seattle (Lumen Field)
5. Dallas (AT&T Stadium)
6. San Francisco/Bay Area (Levi’s Stadium)
7. Atlanta (Mercedes-Benz Stadium)
8. Washington, D.C./Baltimore (M&T Bank Stadium)
9. Boston (Gillette Stadium)
10. Philadelphia (Lincoln Financial Field) - FOCUS ON PHILLY’S BID
11. Houston (NRG Stadium) - FOCUS ON HOUSTON’S BID
12. Kansas City (Arrowhead Stadium)
13. Denver (Mile High)
14. Nashville (Nissan Stadium)
15. Orlando (Camping World Stadium)
16. Cincinnati (Paul Brown Stadium)
Analyzing potential host cities in USA
The first four cities on this list pick themselves. New York, LA, Miami and Seattle are all cities entrenched with rich soccer culture and they are spread in all four corners of the U.S.
But then it starts to get tricky, Atlanta has jumped up the list due to the success of Atlanta United in MLS and its status as a hub city, while logistically it makes sense to have games in the Bay Area and Dallas to link up the West Coast and Midwest region respectively, even if no Midwest cities make the final list of 10. Boston’s rich sporting heritage, plus its location on the East Coast close to other host cities, has to be factored in too.
The likes of Cincinnati and Nashville seem like outsiders and even Orlando can be put into that category as Miami will likely get the nod in Florida.
So that leaves Houston, Denver and Kansas City as the three cities who could be interchangeable with Philadelphia, Boston and Washington D.C./Baltimore depending on how their site visits went. The fact that Washington dropped FedEx Field late on and focused purely on M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore as a joint-bid may hurt their chances, but it is likely FIFA will want a stadium close to the USA’s capital city.
With Chicago pulling out of the bidding early on due to concerns for their taxpayers after FIFA didn’t negotiate, there is a massive gap in the Midwest so Kansas City or Denver could plug that.
Also, it seems like Philly could be the big winner from Montreal dropping out of the bidding in Canada and also because FIFA are keen to cluster the group stage games together in cities nearby as having group games in Boston, Philadelphia and New York City would be easy on travel.
We also shouldn’t rule out that Houston can host games indoors at NRG Stadium (which is a huge plus in the summer months) and the Texas city has grown massively as a soccer hub in recent years.
What are FIFA looking for?
Remember: the location of venues as well as transport, hotels and other local infrastructure all plays a big part in picking host cities. Tens of thousands of extra fans will flock to the city where the game is being played without tickets just to be there.
It is so tough to whittle down this list to just 10 because we all know the U.S. is able to host the World Cup on its own and the fact that at six cities are expected to host games from both Mexico and Canada makes the competition for host city status in the USA even stronger.
Whoever wins the battle to host 2026 World Cup games, it is going to be the biggest party on the planet and will be transformational for the sport in the United States of America.