Ranking the 2026 World Cup host city candidates

FIFA, the governing body of international soccer, announced their process for selecting host cities for the 2026 World Cup, set to be hosted jointly by the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Starting in February, FIFA will begin the process to determine the U.S. host cities. Canada and Mexico will each host in three cities apiece, and those have been determined: Montreal, Edmonton, Toronto, Mexico City, Monterry, and Guadalajara.

For the U.S., 17 cities remain in contention, and that list will need to be whittled down to 10 finalists. It’s a tough ask, given that the U.S. has more viable host cities than any probably other country on the planet, and has the facilities and infrastructures to host the expanded 48-team tournament on its own.

With that being said, we’ve ranked the candidates into four tiers to gauge their likelihood of hosting a World Cup match. It should also be noted that while seven cities will miss out, they should be among the favorites to serve as a base camp for the teams during the tournament, among along with several other cities that aren’t on the shortlist to host.


The candidates

Tier 1: Locks

  • New York/New Jersey – MetLife Stadium (82,500 capacity)
  • Los Angeles – Rose Bowl (92,000 capacity) / SoFi Stadium (100,240 capacity)

Tier 2: Favorites

  • Miami – Hard Rock Stadium (64,767 capacity)
  • Dallas – AT&T Stadium (80,000 capacity)
  • Seattle – Lumen Field (69,000 capacity)
  • Atlanta – Mercedes-Benz Field (71,000 capacity)

Tier 3: Likely

  • Washington D.C. – FedEx Field (82,000 capacity)
  • Philadelphia – Lincoln Financial Field (69,179 capacity)
  • Houston – NRG Stadium (71,795 capacity)
  • Kansas City – Arrowhead Stadium (76,416 capacity)

Tier 4: Borderline

  • Boston – Gillette Stadium (65,878 capacity)
  • Orlando – Camping World Stadium (60,219 capacity)
  • Nashville – Nissan Stadium (69,143 capacity)
  • San Francisco – Levi’s Stadium (68,500 capacity)

Tier 5: Doubtful

  • Denver – Mile High Stadium (76,125 capacity)
  • Baltimore – M&T Bank Stadium (71,006 capacity)
  • Cincinnati – Paul Brown Stadium (65,515 capacity)

The breakdown

New York and LA are locks. They’re two of the biggest global cities and the two most recognizable cities in the country. LA has the historic Rose Bowl, and have included the new SoFi Stadium in their bid. SoFi is the most state-of-the-art stadium currently in the country, and can be expanded to 100,240 capacity for the SuperBowl or World Cup. Both cities easily have the infrastructure to handle an event of this scale. Chicago would fall into this tier, but withdrew in 2018 citing risk to taxpayers and issues with FIFA.

Miami, Dallas, Seattle and Atlanta are all major cities with infrastructure and airports to handle the crowds, an addition to either new or newly-renovated stadiums. Seattle and Atlanta are also hotbeds of soccer in the U.S., attracting some of the most consistent crowds in Major League Soccer. They also have world-class training facilities in addition to their stadiums.

The next tier of cities have high-quality stadiums and infrastructure, but the stadiums are somewhat removed from the main downtown area. They each fill a geographical void on the map, though, and with the exception of Kansas City, are some of the larger cities on the shortlist in terms of population.

Kansas City and Philadelphia are somewhat interchangeable with Boston and Denver, but Kansas City has the advantages of elite training facilities and regular altitude, while Boston’s Gillette Stadium is actually an hour outside the city in Foxborough. And while Orlando has the infrastructure to host, Camping World Stadium would need significant upgrades to qualify.

Nashville has plenty of pros going for it. It’s becoming an “it city” and a very popular vacation destination. It showed that it can hold a party with the 2019 NFL Draft, and Nissan Stadium is in one of the best locations in the country. However, Nashville’s by far the least populous city on the list, and Nissan would need significant upgrades.

In tier five, Denver is at high altitude, and Kansas City is a relatively similar geographical option, and is an overall more attractive bid. While Mexico City is at an even higher altitude, it’s a much more central piece of Mexico’s bid, and the U.S. has plenty of alternatives to Denver. Baltimore and Cincinnati seem very much like outsiders, with similar and more attractive alternatives.

Site visits begin in April 2021, and city officials will be certain to pull out all the stops and present the most attractive vision of their cities in hopes of landing a final bid. NFL owners are sure to use this to leverage updates to their stadiums, which could up the attraction of their cities. With FIFA set to determine host cities by the last quarter of 2021, the next 11 months will be fascinating.

Which cities do you think should host the 2026 World Cup? Let us know in the comments.

Comments

    1. Hi Timothy, that’s an interesting shout for sure. They’re not on the final list, so they aren’t in the running, but USMNT games there have been fun.

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