FIFA's Delays Announcing 2026 Schedule Creating Problems for Cities | Sports Destination Management

FIFA's Delays Announcing 2026 Schedule Creating Problems for Cities

Oct 12, 2023 | By: Mary Helen Sprecher

Officials whose bids won FIFA's coveted status as World Cup venues for 2026 all the way back in June of 2022 are still waiting to find out which cities will host which matches and when. And they’re getting antsy.

According to a September report in the Philadelphia Inquirer, “FIFA had been quiet about that for a long time, too quiet for a lot of people’s tastes. Earlier this month, the New York Times reported that FIFA expected to announce the schedule in October or November, but no one from world soccer’s governing body was quoted. A few days later, right before FIFA’s site tour began in Miami, the tournament’s chief operating officer, Heimo Schirgi, told the Miami Herald that the announcement was expected later this year.”

Which, yes, could mean anything up until and including 11:59 p.m. on New Year's Eve.

It is particularly worrisome since, as the New York Times notes, FIFA’s procrastination is affecting cities on multiple levels, including the hospitality industry and on overall economic impact.

“Opaque rules about sponsorships have left local governments unable to secure deals to cover the millions of dollars of public money they have committed to spend. And delays in hiring could leave FIFA without the kind of seasoned operations, marketing and hospitality professionals required to put on its showpiece tournament.

Even the most basic facts remain in question: Five years after the United States, Canada and Mexico were awarded the hosting rights to the World Cup, and more than a year after FIFA selected the 16 host cities, the date of the opening game is still not set.”

Another issue is that of hotel space; it is likely many hotels have blacked out the dates when World Cup action might come to their city; however, this means turning down potential group travel business that could take the form of conventions or amateur sports, for example.

FIFA has been making plenty of announcements lately (but not about 2026), although what it might have considered its best news (that of the hosts of the 2030 World Cup) was overshadowed by some other information it disseminated.

FIFA Club World Cup is coming to the USA but when and where?The 2030 tournament will take place in six countries across three continents; FIFA has confirmed that the bulk of games will be held in Morocco, Portugal and Spain, with Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay to host some matches as well.

But hard on the heels of that announcement was this news: FIFA has relaxed its bidding rules to host the World Cup, lowering the number of pre-existing stadiums needed from seven to four.

On the Richter Scale, it’s about a 7, edging toward an 8. Pundits say it will be an enormous boost to Saudi Arabia’s efforts to host in 2027. The Daily Mail, in fact, went as far as to state that the hosting in 2027 could now be considered a “done deal” for Saudi Arabia.

FIFA’s new Overview of the Bidding Process document states that those wishing to host must propose 14 venues in total, of which four must be existing. FIFA’s definition of “existing” is “currently in existence or currently under construction” or “requires renovation or reconstruction, whereby the main structural elements are preserved.” FIFA requires stadiums with a minimum capacity of 40,000 for the tournament, with key matches needing room for 60,000 and 80,000 spectators.

The men’s World Cup will expand to a 48-team tournament in 2026, when the US, Canada and Mexico will co-host; the previous seven-existing-stadiums requirement impacted many cities’ abilities to bid to host games.

The Stadium Business notes, “Having confirmed the 2030 hosts, FIFA has already allocated the 2034 competition to bidders from either Asia or Oceania. Saudi Arabia announced its intention to host the tournament within minutes of the process opening, while Australia is said to be “exploring the possibility” of a bid.

Those who want to throw their hat into the potential host ring for 2034 must do so to FIFA by October 31, 2023.

A FIFA spokesperson said: “The bidding regulations require FIFA to use the 2030 requirements as a base and adapt where appropriate and applicable to make them fit for purpose. The requirement for four existing stadiums for the 2034 edition factors in the significantly longer lead-in time to the tournament and guards against infrastructure being more out of date, making allowance for having the best quality possible.”

Uh… whatever that means.

And notes The Stadium Business, “Saudi Arabia’s successful bid proposal for the 2027 Asian Cup included four stadiums of 40,000 capacity or more. These include two in Riyadh that are being upgraded, one in Jeddah and a new build in Dammam.”

Jeddah is already set to host this year’s FIFA Club World Cup in December.

Women’s World Cup

With the dust barely settling from one Women’s World Cup, the USA is already looking toward the future, having previously announced it will bid with Mexico to host the 2027 Women’s World Cup.

The timeline is already up and running. In February 2024, FIFA will conduct on-site venue inspection visits to bidding countries and is expected to name its selections in May 2024.

The USA will be going up against three other strong bids; in fact, it is being labeled “the most competitive bid process in the history of FIFA:”

  • The Royal Belgian Football Association, the Royal Netherlands Football Association and the German Football Association (joint expression of interest)
  • The Brazilian Football Association
  • The South African Football Association

By late August, the conversation had heated up as to which U.S. cities would be the best hosting choices. According to World Soccer Talk, “What US Soccer and the bid committee ultimately decided to do is still up in the air. They could choose to go with all NFL stadiums. They could opt for a hybrid of NFL stadiums and MLS stadiums. It is also possible they use both NFL and MLS venues for the 2027 Women’s World Cup. If the United States scores the co-hosting rights to the 2027 Women’s World Cup, it ensures one thing. The next five years will be loads of fun for American soccer fans.”

Provided, of course, you define "loads of fun" as waiting interminably for information on a schedule of games, as is happening with the 2026 tournament.

World Soccer Talk made the suggestion that the games for 2027 should be spread across the U.S. "and include cities that were passed over for the 2026 World Cup. Most of the stadiums should be ones with large capacities as the 1999 Women’s World Cup showed that filling up NFL stadiums can be done.”

At the same time, some smaller soccer-specific venues were suggested (including those in Washington, DC; Nashville, Tennessee; and Portland, Oregon).

World Soccer Talk's suggestions (and keep in mind, these were only suggestions) included the following.

  • Orlando, Florida: Camping World Stadium (Capacity: 60,219)
  • Washington, DC: Audi Field (Capacity: 20,000)
  • Nashville, Tennessee: Geodis Park (Capacity: 30,109)
  • Chicago, Illinois: Soldier Field (Capacity: 61,500)
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Lincoln Financial Field (Capacity: 67,594)
  • East Rutherford, New Jersey: MetLife Stadium (Capacity: 82,500)
  • Glendale, Arizona: State Farm Stadium (Capacity: 72,200)
  • Pasadena, California: Rose Bowl (Capacity: 92,542)
  • Santa Clara, California: Levi’s Stadium (Capacity: 68,500)
  • Portland, Oregon: Providence Park (Capacity: 25,218)
  • Seattle, Washington: Lumen Field (Capacity: 68,740)

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