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The US men’s team opens a busy summer on home soil on June 3 in Denver with the Concacaf Nations League against Honduras. But there is also action off the field as competition intensifies between cities competing to host World Cup games in 2026.
The hope is that international borders will be opened to allow Fifa to conduct personal inspections in the summer or early fall, with the 37-member Fifa Council to determine the winners at the end of this year based on contributions from the football of the three associations.
“We’re all in the same boat here,” said Chris Canetti, president of the Houston 2026 bid committee. “The pandemic created a challenge where everything had to be done virtually and FIFA wasn’t able to open the local markets visit to visit the stadiums or drive around the cities. I think we are all equally disadvantaged. “
As things stand, 16 cities will host the tournament from 48 nations and 80 games. The venues in Canada (Edmonton, Montreal and Toronto) and Mexico (Guadalajara, Mexico City and Monterrey) have already been determined. But in the US, 17 cities are still competing for the 10 US hosting spots. 60 games are planned in the USA, including quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals, as well as 10 each in Canada and Mexico.
There were a few early surprises: no Chicago – one of the largest and most alluring cities in North America, let alone the home of the US Football Association – or Vancouver, the host of the 2015 Women’s World Cup final. The city guides weren’t ready to take the onerous to meet Fifa’s financial and legal requirements. Montreal’s status is now in question after the Quebec government decided earlier this year to withdraw funding.
Below are the US cities still battling for a spot in the World Cup – and their chances of making the cut.
Conference location: Mercedes-Benz Stadium (forecast World Cup capacity: 65,085)
The coming home rating of football: 4/5
A big city with one of the largest airports in the world, a stunning modern downtown stadium with a retractable roof and an extremely popular MLS team. The only real downside is the need to install a temporary lawn.
M&T Bank Stadium is a popular NFL venue but may not make it for the World Cup. Photo: Julio Cortez / AP
Conference location: M&T Bank Stadium (63,689)
An underrated city with a good airport and a downtown stadium, but no MLS club – which could be turned into a USP with heritage in mind. Charm City stands a chance as an easy DC-adjacent alternative if Fifa has a persistent dislike for FedEx Field; otherwise Philadelphia is probably higher in the east coast pecking order.
Conference location: Gillette Stadium (60,335)
Rating: 3.5 / 5
Attractive city, but mediocre stadium with artificial turf in a miserable location, almost 30 miles from the city center. However, New England Revolution, New England Patriots, and Gillette Stadium owner Robert Kraft are an influential figure who played a role as honorary chairman in bringing the tournament to North America. Boston is also one of the sports-loving cities in the United States.
Conference location: Paul Brown Stadium (60,294)
A central riverside venue in a city with a well supported new MLS team but a relatively small urban area and airport. Within a five-hour drive of many major cities, including Chicago, but Kansas City is likely to be ahead if Fifa wants a stadium in the Midwest.
AT&T Stadium is home to the Dallas Cowboys. Photo: Roger Steinman / AP
Conference location: AT&T Stadium (80,415)
The stadium is actually in Arlington, near the epic urban sprawl of Dallas-Fort Worth. Conveniently located halfway between New York and LA, with great airport connections and lavish accommodations, the Dallas Cowboys retractable starship is one of the largest and best stadiums in the world and at least a contender for the semifinals.
Conference location: Strengthen field at Mile High (69,977)
A big, bustling city with a huge airport, a centrally located stadium, and a long-established, if mediocre MLS team in the Colorado Rapids. That famous 5,100-foot altitude is due to competitive balance concerns, but given the Mexico City and Guadalajara selections (7,300 feet and 5,100 feet, respectively), this isn’t a deal-breaker. A successful Concacaf Nations League final this month could increase Denver’s chances.
Conference location: NRG Stadium (62,444)
Rating: 3.5 / 5
A region of over seven million people, more than twice the size of Qatar, a wealth of experience hosting international games, impressive hotel, event and airport options, and an air-conditioned stadium with a retractable roof to alleviate heat and humidity. But would need a temporary natural grass pitch. The proximity to Dallas could be a plus or a minus.
Conference location: Arrowhead Stadium (69,070)
The Hunt family, who control Dallas FC and the Kansas City Chiefs of the NFL, have a long and influential history in major league soccer. Sporting KC is an MLS triumph and St. Louis (just 400 miles away) is slated to join the league in 2023. The airport is getting a new terminal, but the infrastructure is not comparable to that of larger competitors.
The 1994 World Cup final took place in the Rose Bowl. Photo: Chris Wilkins / AFP via Getty Images
Conference location: Rose Bowl (76,106) and / or SoFi Stadium (70,000 expandable to 100,000)
The colossal, venerable Rose Bowl was the venue for the 1994 final and the 1999 women’s final. But the ultra-modern facilities and numerous company suites in the new SoFi stadium – with 5.5 billion euros.
Conference location: Hard Rock Stadium (60,404)
Summer is not the ideal time to play in the heat and humidity of South Florida. But the glamor of Miami is hard to resist, it’s a gateway to Latin America, the headquarters of Concacaf and hometown of former US soccer president Carlos Cordeiro, and the stadium has often hosted major games – including El Clásico.
Conference location: Nissan Stadium (62,498)
A thriving city that’s now known for both football and music thanks to Nashville SC, which began with the MLS game in 2020. The stadium is centrally located and is 400 km from Atlanta. A fascinating option – but an outsider unless Fifa decides to prioritize proximity to honky tonks.
New York / New Jersey
Conference location: MetLife Stadium (74,895)
Opened in 2010, the $ 1.6 billion stadium will compete with LA for the final, and as SoCal had the honor in 1994 (with the now demolished Giants Stadium, which hosted Bulgaria against Italy among the final four ), is perhaps the most populous stadium in the US in turn of metropolitan area and major media market.
Conference location: Camping World Stadium (58.012)
Games hosted in 1994 (as opposed to Miami) and its theme parks mean it has one of the busiest airports in the country and an enormous selection of hotel rooms. The stadium – the former home of the Orlando City MLS club – is nothing special. A Sunshine State Double Act has geographic value, but a Miami-Atlanta pairing is more likely.
Conference location: Lincoln Financial Field (62,123)
Size (eighth largest US metro zone), status as a famous / infamous sports center with an MLS team, tourist appeal and convenient location between Washington and New York make Philly a logical choice. There is a risk of losing to Boston if only three northeastern cities win, but could benefit if Montreal au revoir has its way.
San Francisco Bay Area
Conference location: Levis Stadium (61,198)
With LA, it sure makes sense to add a second venue in the most populous state, and the 49ers home is in an affluent, touristy, populous area, though it receives mixed reviews – and it’s a fair bit of downtown San Francisco . The troop of tech giants from Silicon Valley on the doorstep will get the Fifa corporate juices flowing. Also: Condoleezza rice!
Seattle is home to a passionate base of MLS fans. Photo: Ted S. Warren / AP
Conference location: Lumen Field (61,812)
Central stadium in a seductive city that is home to one of the most supported and famous teams in the MLS, as well as large corporations. In a football hotbed, though a bit isolated from other competitors – albeit closest to Edmonton – and needs to add natural grass.
Conference location: FedEx box (60,961)
Joe Biden was more of a gridiron type in his playing days, although he has shown more interest in football lately. The political and cultural weight of the capital – as well as the tourist and transport options – will help the city of MLS founding member DC United. The biggest disadvantage, however, is a serious one: the unloved and poorly located stadium itself. A new one could come … in 2027.