The FIFA fallout hasn’t stopped – in fact, the recent release of a report on criminal activities is expected to throw gasoline on a fire that won’t abate, and probably will burn even higher, considering FIFA compiled its own report. Fortunately, something else that hasn’t stopped is the process of site selection for the 2026 World Cup.
The most recent headline in that regard is the announcement of the venues that could be part of the Canada/Mexico/USA bid. According to Soccer America, these include 37 stadiums in 34 U.S. markets. The breakdown of the bid, which includes a total of 49 stadiums in 44 markets, sees the U.S. venues far outweighing those to be used by the other two countries; in fact, the working plan is that 60 games will be played in the USA and 10 each in Canada and Mexico.
Have sharp eyes? If so, you noticed the key phrase, venues that could be part of the bid. The bid committee has multiple options to consider as it winnows down the numbers to what will likely be as few as 12-15 U.S. venues in 2026 if FIFA awards the United States, Mexico and Canada the hosting rights.
According to an article in Inside The Games, the next step at this point is for the bid committee to draw up a shortlist of proposed locations late next month before candidate cities submit their final bids in January. Around 20 to 25 venues will form part of the official submission to world football's governing body before the final dozen or so venues are chosen.
According to an article in ESPNFC, the Mexican soccer stadiums currently being proposed are Guadalajara (Estadio Chivas), Mexico City (Estadio Azteca) and Monterrey (Estadio Rayados). The article noted that Estadio Azteca in Mexico City also remains a possibility for the opener, though every game from the quarterfinals on will be in the U.S. To the north of the U.S., Canada is suggesting a total nine stadiums to be looked at in seven cities, including Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Regina, Toronto and Vancouver. The full list of prospective venues, locations and capacities is found later in this article.
We’re grateful to Soccer America for creating the following breakdown of the U.S. stadiums being offered up for consideration. You’ll never find a better analysis:
All but one U.S. stadium has a capacity of at least 60,000 seats: Only one of the five FIFA-ready stadiums in Morocco, the sole 2026 big competitor, has a capacity of even 50,000: Rabat's Stade Prince Moulay Abdellah (52,000 seats).
All but three current NFL stadiums are on the list: The exceptions: New Era Field (Buffalo Bills), Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum (Raiders) and StubHub Center (temporary home of the Chargers).
Almost all the stadiums are soccer-friendly: Not without some difficulties -- artificial turf or narrow dimensions -- almost all the stadiums the USA is considering now have a history of welcoming big soccer matches: Gold Cup, International Champions Cup or international friendlies. Just three stadiums -- all shared with NFL teams -- are or will be the home to MLS teams: Boston's Gillette Stadium, Seattle's CenturyLink Field and Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Will domed stadiums help or hurt? Detroit's Silverdome was a novelty in 1994 -- the first domed stadium used at a World Cup -- but eight NFL stadiums with domes or retractable roofs were on today's list for 2026. All but the University of Phoenix Stadium currently has some kind of artificial surface. As FIFA and local organizers deal with the issue of summer heat -- Qatar 2022 was moved to November-December -- these stadiums with domes or retractable roofs might become attractive.
World Cup 2022 bid serves as guidance: In 2010, the USA submitted a list of 18 cities representing 20 stadiums. From that list, only Seattle's Husky Stadium and Atlanta's Georgia Dome aren't on the initial list for the 2026 bid. A list of 18 U.S. cities would seem to a good target for the 2026 bid, to go along with three Mexican cities and probably four Canadian cities. The competition in 2010 was such that Chicago's Soldier Field didn't even make the final cut.
A lot has changed since 2010. Levi's Stadium, host of the 2017 Gold Cup final, opened in 2014, Minnesota's U.S. Bank Stadium opened in 2016, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in Atlanta will open in the fall, and new NFL stadiums are being built in Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
Key number is 12. In 1994, just nine venues were used for the World Cup, then a 24-team tournament. At least 12 venues are proposed to be used -- perhaps as many as 15 -- in 2026 for what will be the first 48-team tournament.
Bid committee has lots of leverage. Hosting a World Cup requires stadium operators to agree to lots of restrictions and inconveniences, but there's such competition that the bid committee will have lots of leverage in exacting the terms it -- and FIFA -- will demand. In Los Angeles alone, there's the Rose Bowl, host of the 1994 World Cup final, the Coliseum, home to USC, and the LA Stadium at Hollywood Park, which is being built for the NFL Rams and Chargers and slated to open in 2020.
In order to be considered to host, a city must meet the following criteria:
Stadium capable of hosting international soccer (40,000 seats for group stage matches and at least 80,000 seats for opening game and the final)
International-level training sites and locations for team base camps
Hotels for teams, staff and VIPs (as well as fans)
Experience hosting major events
Environmental protection initiatives
List of venues currently being considered as part of the bid package (as mentioned previously, this number will go down significantly by the time of the finalized bid):
USA (34 cities, 37 stadiums)
CITY STADIUM CAPACITY
*Atlanta, GA: Mercedes-Benz Stadium (NFL future) (75,000)
Baltimore, MD: M&T Bank Stadium (NFL)( 71,008)
Birmingham, AL: Legion Field (71,594)
Boston, MA: (Foxborough) Gillette Stadium (NFL) (65,892)
Charlotte, NC: Bank of America Stadium (NFL) (75,400)
Chicago, IL: Soldier Field (NFL) (61,500)
Cincinnati, OH: Paul Brown Stadium (NFL) (65,515)
Cleveland, OH: FirstEnergy Stadium (NFL) (68,710)
Dallas, TX: Cotton Bowl (92,100)
Dallas, TX: (Arlington) AT&T Stadium (NFL) (105,000)
Denver, CO: Sports Authority Field at Mile High (NFL) (76,125)
Detroit, MI: Ford Field (NFL) (65,000)
Green Bay, WI: Lambeau Field (NFL) (81,441)
Houston, TX: NRG Stadium (NFL)( 71,500)
Indianapolis, IN: Lucas Oil Stadium (NFL) (65,700)
Jacksonville, FL: EverBank Field (NFL) (64,000)
Kansas City, MO: Arrowhead Stadium (NFL) (76,416)
*Las Vegas, NV: Raiders Stadium (NFL future) (72,000)
Los Angeles, CA: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (NFL) (78,500)
*Los Angeles, CA: (Inglewood) LA Stadium at Hollywood Park (NFL future) (Capacity TBD)
Los Angeles, CA: (Pasadena) Rose Bowl (87,527)
Miami, FL: Hard Rock Stadium (NFL) (65,767)
Minneapolis, MN: U.S. Bank Stadium (NFL) (63,000)
Nashville, TN: Nissan Stadium (NFL) (69,143)
New Orleans, LA: Mercedes-Benz Superdome (NFL) (72,000)
New York/New Jersey: (East Rutherford, NJ) MetLife Stadium (NFL) (82,500)
Orlando, FL: Camping World Stadium (65,000)
Philadelphia, PA: Lincoln Financial Field (NFL) (69,328)
Phoenix, AZ (Glendale, AZ): University of Phoenix Stadium (NFL) (73,000)
Pittsburgh, PA: Heinz Field (NFL) (68,400)
Salt Lake City, UT: Rice-Eccles Stadium (45,807)
San Antonio, TX: Alamodome (72,000)
San Diego, CA: Qualcomm Stadium (71,500)
San Francisco/San Jose, CA (Santa Clara): Levi's Stadium (NFL) (75,000)
Seattle, WA: CenturyLink Field (NFL) (69,000)
Tampa, FL: Raymond James Stadium (NFL) (73,309)
Washington, DC (Landover, MD): FedEx Field (NFL) (82,000)
*Not yet open.
Canada (7 Cities, 9 Stadiums)
Calgary, Alberta: McMahon Stadium (35,650)
Edmonton, Alberta: Commonwealth Stadium (56,302)
Montreal: Stade Olympique (61,004)
Montreal: Stade Saputo (20,801)
Ottawa, Ontario: TD Place Stadium (24,000)
Regina, Saskatchewan: Mosaic Stadium (30,048)
Toronto: Rogers Centre (53,506)
Toronto: BMO Field (30,000)
Vancouver, British Columbia: BC Place (54,500)
Mexico (3 cities, 3 stadiums)
Guadalajara, Jalisco: Estadio Chivas (45,364)
Mexico City: Estadio Azteca (87,000)
Monterrey, Nuevo Leon: Estadio Rayados (52,237)
Nothing is finalized yet, however, and the bidding process is far from over. In fact, cities worldwide have until September 5, 2017, to indicate their interest in bidding. And by the way, it’s not a sure thing for the Canada/Mexico/USA bid – Morocco just announced a bid.
After September 5, the following deadlines will be in effect, according to Soccer America:
Late September 2017: Bid committees will issue a shortlist of cities and then provide more detailed bid documentation.
Early January 2018: Cities must their final bids.
March 16, 2018: Bid committees submit final bids to meet FIFA's technical specifications (yet to be distributed). If no bid meets FIFA's terms, the 2026 hosting race will be opened up to all members (including Europe and Asia).
June 13, 2018: If any bid passes FIFA's technical requirements, it will be presented to the FIFA Congress in Moscow. Unlike other World Cup bid campaigns that went to the FIFA executive committee (since replaced by the FIFA council), the 2026 World Cup hosting rights will be voted upon by the full membership of 211 federations.
As the bid committee compares the specifications of various stadiums and works to trim back the list to a manageable number, expect sports commissions and CVBs to be in overdrive, promoting their cities as possible hosts. Fortunately, with an eight-year window between any final announcement from FIFA and the 2026 World Cup itself, there should be plenty of time for cities to clear their calendars, update facilities and pump up infrastructure.