FIFA selects 2026 cities and predicts football will become the ‘number’ 1 sport in the US

The 16 cities of the inaugural World Cup across three countries were named, and FIFA President Gianni Infantino made a bold statement summarizing the goal of the 2026 tournament, which will be played primarily in the United States.

“By 2026, football – football – will be the number one sport in this country,” he said.

Roughly four years before the football showcase came to the US, Mexico and Canada, there were already winners and losers on Thursday: Atlanta, Houston, Miami, Philadelphia, Seattle and Kansas City, Missouri were selected after missing the 1994 tournament .

Baltimore, Cincinnati, Denver, Nashville, Tennessee, and Orlando, Florida did not make the list.

Arlington, Texas; East Rutherford, New Jersey; Foxborough, Massachusetts, as well as Inglewood and Santa Clara, California, were holdovers from the 1994 tournament that raised football’s prominence in America.

The Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, which hosted the 1970 and 1986 finals and would be the first stadium of three World Cups, was chosen along with the Estadio Acron in Guadalajara and the Estadio BBVA in Monterrey.

BMO Field in Toronto and BC Place in Vancouver, British Columbia were selected, while Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, Alberta was dropped.

After the closure of the outdated FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, Baltimore’s omission means it will be the first World Cup not to feature matches in the vicinity of the host nation’s capital, although Infantino has promised to hold a Fan Fest on Washington’s National Mall.

Fans wait on 6th Avenue for FIFA's announcement of the names of the host cities for the 2026 FIFA World Cup soccer tournament, June 16, 2022, in New York City.

Fans wait on 6th Avenue for FIFA’s announcement of the names of the host cities for the 2026 FIFA World Cup soccer tournament, June 16, 2022, in New York City.

“It’s always about who isn’t chosen,” said US Football Federation President Cindy Parlow Cone.

Infantino’s goal of reaching the pinnacle of American sports seems achievable. The 2021 NFL season averaged 17.1 million TV and digital viewers, while the 2018 World Cup averaged 5.04 million viewers on US English and Spanish-language television.

“I know it was giggles and laughter,” Canadian Football Association president Victor Montagliani said of the reaction to Infantino. “He wasn’t joking.”

The 1994 tournament set records with a total attendance of 3.59 million and an average of 68,991 matches. 11 U.S. stadiums have a capacity of 60,000 or more in 2026.

“There will be much, much, much more,” Infantino said. “I think this part of the world does not understand what will happen here in 2026. These three countries will be turned upside down. The world will invade Canada, Mexico and the United States.”

The bid plan called for 60 games in the US, including everything from the quarterfinals onwards, and 10 games each in Mexico and Canada.

Specific locations for each round will be announced at a later date, and Infantino said UTC was a factor for the final, making the Eastern and Central time zones more likely. FIFA has gradually moved the start time of the final from 3:30 pm EST to 10:00 pm EST for this year’s tournament, i.e. 10:00 pm in Beijing.

The US election did not include any of the nine stadiums used in the 1994 World Cup. The Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California and Camping World Stadium in Orlando were the only ones left in contention, and they were among the seats dropped in the final round.

New stadiums were chosen in the five areas used in 1994. AT&T Stadium in Texas replaced the Dallas Cotton Bowl Stadium; SoFi Stadium in Inglewood replaced the Rose Bowl in Pasadena; and Levy Stadium instead of Stanford Stadium.

Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey and Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts replaced nearby demolished stadiums, Giants Stadium and Foxboro Stadium.

Camping World in Orlando was decommissioned in 1994. The Detroit area where games of the old Pontiac Silverdome were played was downsized in 2018, and Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium was closed after FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland dropped out. Washington RFK Stadium was in use in 1994.

Chicago, which hosted the inaugural 1994 match at Soldier Field, declined to bid, citing FIFA’s economic demands.

Unlike the site’s 1992 announcement during a press conference, the 2026 announcement was made during a TV show from the Fox studio in Manhattan.

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