On Thursday, the International Football Association (FIFA) began revealing its plans to host the FIFA World Cup between three countries in 2026 by declaring the host cities for the largest tournament in the history of football. The tournament, which will be hosted by the United States, Mexico and Canada, will be the first to feature 48 teams, up from the current 32, and will be held in cities across North America.
“This part of the world doesn’t realize what’s going to happen here in 2026,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino said at a press conference in Manhattan following the televised announcement.
The selections are revealed, 16 cities drawn from a list of 22 finalists, in three regional groups, blocks representing the Eastern, Central and Western regions.
Among the winning bidders are legendary football stadiums such as the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, which has hosted two World Cup finals. It included urban areas with previous World Cup hosting experience such as Los Angeles, New York, Dallas and Guadalajara, Mexico. Among them were newcomers such as Toronto, Philadelphia, Miami and Seattle. It included smaller cities such as Kansas City, Missouri.
the East: Toronto (BMO field); Boston (Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, Massachusetts); Philadelphia (Lincoln Financial Field); Miami (Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida); and New York/NJ (MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ).
Center: Kansas City, Missouri (Arrowhead Stadium); Dallas (AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas); Atlanta (Mercedes-Benz Stadium); Houston (NRG Stadium); Monterrey, Mexico (Estadio BBVA, Guadalupe); Mexico City (Azteca Stadium).
the West: Vancouver (BC Place); Seattle (Lumens Field); San Francisco (Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, California); Los Angeles (SoFi Stadium, Inglewood, CA); and Guadalajara, Mexico (Akron Stadium, Zapopan).
The Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California – which hosted the final in 1994, was the only other time the World Cup had been held in the United States. But it was also a joint bid representing Baltimore and Washington, D.C., which means the US capital will not play a role in the nation’s biggest sporting event in 2026.
“This was a very difficult choice,” said Colin Smith, FIFA’s Chief Tournament and Events Officer. “You can’t imagine the World Cup coming to the US and the capital not playing a major role either.” (Infantino said a mass fest will be held at the National Mall in Washington.)
The bulk of the 80th World Cup matches will be played in the United States, following an agreement made by the federations of the three host countries when they submitted a bid to host the tournament in 2017 and emphasizing FIFA’s options. Of the 16 cities selected, 11 were in the United States, three in Mexico and two – Vancouver and Toronto – in Canada. Mexico will be the first country to host the World Cup three times, while Canada will host it for the first time.
Infantino said some recent decisions about the host cities had not been made until Thursday. But there are still many choices to be made, such as organizing the match schedule, deciding which cities will host the most important games, figuring out how to reduce travel and how to avoid the worst summer temperatures in the cities where the stadium is located. no limits.
“In such a large area like North America, we need to take care of that in particular, to make sure the teams play in groups so that fans don’t have to travel crazy distances and the teams do too,” Infantino said. “When we look at that, we have to take into account the weather conditions, the stadiums, those that have a roof, those that have been closed and maybe can play in the early afternoon and those that you have to play in the evening.”
Victor Montaliani, president of Concacaf, football’s governing body in North and Central America and the Caribbean, said the process of deciding which city will host the World Cup final – as well as high profile matches such as the opening match or those in the knockout stage – has yet to begin. He said that the stadium capacity for the final will be the main factor for many.
When asked about specific locations, such as Mexico City or the New York area, as hosts for the final, Infantino was shy. “New York is definitely a candidate, as are the other 15 cities,” he joked.
Since many of the selected stadiums have been built for NFL teams, they have large capacities. But in order to accommodate a wider soccer field in a narrower space designed for soccer, Smith said some seats would have to be removed at certain “pressure points” in some stadiums. But he insisted it “has no material impact on capacity”.
He later added, “The ’94 World Cup holds the current record for attendance and it will be blown out of the water given the capabilities we have in these stadiums.”
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