Frontrunners, Dark Horses and Spoilers in the FIFA World Cup Hosting Question | Sports Destination Management

Frontrunners, Dark Horses and Spoilers in the FIFA World Cup Hosting Question

May 24, 2022 | By: Mary Helen Sprecher

It’s no secret by now that FIFA will be making its announcement about the host cities for the 2026 World Cup in mid-June. The news broke last Friday and ever since, two things have been running rampant: speculation and the spin cycle.

Twenty-two candidate host cities are currently vying for the right to stage matches for the 48-team tournament hosted by three nations – both firsts for a FIFA World Cup.

Want to see a stadium-by-stadium breakdown of not just the facilities but the level of match they're in the running to host, the year they were constructed, the number of seats, the number of rest rooms, surface type and other trivia? The 18 has it right here. (Seriously, it is by far the best list you’ll see anywhere and we’re in awe of this level of analysis).

In short, though, an alphabetical list of the current candidate host cities is as follows:

  • Atlanta
  • Baltimore/Washington, DC
  • Boston
  • Cincinnati
  • Dallas
  • Denver
  • Edmonton
  • Guadalajara
  • Houston
  • Kansas City
  • Los Angeles
  • Mexico City
  • Miami
  • Monterrey
  • Nashville
  • New York/New Jersey
  • Orlando
  • Philadelphia
  • San Francisco
  • Seattle
  • Toronto
  • Vancouver

The World Cup Trophy will be hosted...but where?When it comes to putting odds on different cities, well, that’s anyone's guess. Sports Illustrated defines its front-runners as follows (and this is a direct quote):

The Favorites

Atlanta - Broke MLS attendance records when Atlanta United joined the league in 2017 and is arguably American soccer’s most successful new market. Mercedes-Benz Stadium opened the same year.

Boston - Gillette Stadium is about 20 miles south of Boston, but it has a history of hosting major soccer events. And the Krafts, who own the Patriots and Revolution, are deeply connected at U.S. Soccer.

Dallas - AT&T Stadium has become a go-to venue for major events, including the CONCACAF Gold Cup and big friendlies, and probably is a prime candidate to host a semifinal.

Los Angeles — Home of the 1994 World Cup final, the Rose Bowl is L.A.’s official candidate venue. SoFi Stadium, which hosts NFL play, can seat at least 70,000.

Miami — Hard Rock Stadium has undergone significant renovations and hosted the Super Bowl. Miami’s status as an international city will appeal.

New York/New Jersey — Some have pegged MetLife Stadium, which can be expanded to 87,000 seats, as the early favorite to host the 2026 final. Its predecessor, Giants Stadium, was the site of a semifinal in 1994.

San Francisco/Bay Area — Levi’s Stadium is the likeliest candidate for a second venue in the Pacific time zone. Nearby Stanford Stadium was a 1994 World Cup site.

SI lists the other cities/venues as “the rest,” by the way. If you want a more detailed breakdown of Locks, Likely, Contenders, Dark Horses and Long Shots, here’s one from Fox Sports. (Note: It’s a bit outdated, having been written last September; the lineup has changed, with some venues having been replaced or withdrawn from the competition).

It is possible that cities not picked to host games may be named as locations of training and scrimmages so there is the potential for all venues to come into play on some level.

Some items that influence site selection, outside of sports facilities themselves, are:

  • Hotel availability (in multiple price points) in and around the area of the venue.
  • Restaurant availability (also in multiple price points) in and around the area of the venue.
  • Potential for activations (fan fests, trade shows, etc.) that can generate interest and engagement before, during and after matches.
  • Infrastructure: In addition to road and air access, cities will be expected to have mass transit that can move patrons to and from games easily, or to and from area attractions.
  • Potential for sightseeing and tourism: The attractiveness of a city is also judged on its ability to draw tourists who want to see not only that game but the local sights (these might include theme parks, historical sites and other attractions).
  • Walkability of cities, allowing visitors to get from place to place easily and safely
  • Security: The overall safety of a city will be a determining factor as well.

FIFA has noted that it has been evaluating cities with an eye to “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 undoubtedly be the largest FIFA World Cup in history.”

Announcement of host cities will be live streamed as well as sent out in press release form.

On cue, candidate cities have been winding up the spin cycle once again, sending out press releases and social media postings about the selection process, the venues under consideration and the overall enthusiasm for soccer.

Meanwhile, the waiting game continues as June 16 looms.

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