FIFA selects 11 US stadiums

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MetLife Stadium was one of the venues chosen by FIFA to host the 2026 World Cup matches. (AP Photo/Seth Little, file)

NEW YORK — Kansas City and Boston are among North American cities set to host 2026 Men’s World Cup games — but Washington DC and Baltimore are not.

FIFA, the global governing body of football, announced the tournament hosts here in Manhattan on Thursday. It selected three Mexican cities, two Canadian and eleven in the United States – New York/East Rutherford, NJ; Philadelphia; Boston/Foxborough; Miami; Atlanta; Houston; Dallas/Arlington; Kansas City; Los Angeles/Inglewood; San Francisco/Santa Clara; and Seattle.

However, the US capital was not selected. “It was a very, very difficult decision,” said Colin Smith, FIFA’s head of competitions and events. He conceded that “It’s hard to imagine… a World Cup coming to the United States and the capital not playing a big role.”

Washington DC merged its bid with Baltimore earlier this spring to address FIFA concerns about FedEx Field, the often ridiculed home of the Washington Commanders. FIFA officials confirmed the widespread negative perception of the stadium when they toured it last fall, sources told Emox News. In response, organizers proposed a plan to play games at M&T Bank Stadium, home of the Baltimore Ravens, while hosting additional celebrations and VIP events in Washington.

But FIFA eventually rejected the joint offer, opting instead for Boston and Kansas City, two other bubble cities. Boston’s bid was supported by Robert Kraft, who was honorary chairman of the North American bid committee and has a personal relationship with FIFA President Gianni Infantino.

A FIFA spokesman also confirmed to Emox News that the Los Angeles games would be held at SoFi Stadium and not the Rose Bowl. (Organizers had considered hosting games in both.)

The US, Canada and Mexico won the rights to host the 2026 edition of the world’s most-watched sporting event back in 2018, offering up two dozen metro areas as potential game venues. They originally suggested there would be 10 in the US and three each in Mexico and Canada.

Instead, they voted Thursday for 11 US cities and just two north of the border. They confirmed all three Mexican candidates – Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey – but only Toronto and Vancouver in Canada. After Montreal withdrew its bid last summer citing high costs but Vancouver reappeared as a candidate this spring, FIFA officials turned their backs on Edmonton.

The four other unselected finalists were Orlando, Cincinnati, Nashville and Denver. Nashville’s hopes were torpedoed by uncertainty about the future of its NFL stadium. But those four, along with the 16 host cities and other non-finalists, could still host team base camps and pre-tournament friendlies. Most participating national teams will train at colleges and MLS facilities in the United States

There will also be “Fan Fests” – outdoor watch parties sponsored by FIFA – in non-host cities. Washington DC had envisioned one on the National Mall. When asked if that would still happen, Smith began to offer a noncommittal answer, but Infantino cut him off with a smile and one word, “Yes.”

With the World Cup expanding to 48 teams in 2026, 60 out of 80 games are likely to be played in the United States. FIFA hasn’t said how many games each city will host, but the North American bid committee originally suggested a minimum of five per US city. including at least two knockout round matches each. A schedule shell could be released as early as next year.

Three matches are expected to take place on opening day, one in each country, with venues for specific matches yet to be determined. “We will take our time with this decision,” Infantino said on Thursday.

The top two candidates to host the finals are MetLife Stadium in North Jersey and AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, according to a source familiar with the planning process.

The other stadiums are Lincoln Financial Field (Philadelphia); Gillette Stadium (Foxborough, Massachusetts); Hard Rock Stadium (Miami); Mercedes Benz Stadium (Atlanta); NRG Stadium (Houston); Arrowhead Stadium (Kansas City); SoFi Stadium (Inglewood, California); Levi’s Stadium (Santa Clara, California); Lumenfeld (Seattle); Estadio Azteca (Mexico City); Akron Stadium (Guadalajara); Estadio BBVA (Monterrey); BMO Field (Toronto); and BC Place (Vancouver).

Why some US cities won’t be involved

Like Montreal, some US cities chose not to be involved. Chicago pulled out in 2018, citing taxpayer risk and “FIFA’s inflexibility and unwillingness to negotiate,” months before the so-called United Bid had even been selected by the more than 200 international football executives that make up FIFA’s membership.

Minneapolis also withdrew due to demands from FIFA, which include tax breaks and various local government guarantees. Host cities essentially pay to host 3-7 games, a “Fan Fest” and other events. They welcome thousands of tourists, but FIFA derives most of the revenue from the games themselves, making billions of dollars in profits.

“Specifically, we requested flexibility on financial liability caps and/or stronger estimates of expected costs associated with the events,” the Minneapolis bid committee said in a statement. “The inability to negotiate the terms of the various bid agreements did not provide our partners and our community with adequate protection against future liability and unanticipated changes in obligations.”

As with the Olympics, host city contracts are widely viewed as unilateral, giving FIFA sweeping power to dictate the tournament while avoiding financial risk. When asked about the tax breaks and why FIFA is pushing for extra money that could benefit local governments, Infantino argued that cities benefit economically from tourism, explaining that FIFA distributes its revenue to its 211 member associations, many of which rely on tourism Payouts work. He defended the practice as “a fair compromise”.

World Championships also bring civil concerns. They often entail heavy policing and, in some cases, the expulsion of vulnerable people. A coalition of labor and human rights groups wrote to FIFA late last year to call for a minimum set of standards for rights around the 2026 tournament, and on Thursday expressed “concerns about negotiations with FIFA on human and labor rights”. Cathy Feingold, the international director of the AFL-CIO, told Emox News in a phone interview that the human rights plans presented by the selected US cities were “very patchy”. (FIFA plans to follow up on the human rights commitments of the North American candidacy over the coming months and years.)

Celebrate host cities

Nevertheless, the 16 cities and their residents celebrated on Thursday. Many hosted downtown watch parties promoted and honored by mayors.

Tickets will likely go on sale in 2025. The tournament is expected to start on Thursday 11th June 2026. And it will almost certainly break the record for World Championship attendance – still held by the 1994 Men’s World Championship in the USA

This is the first Men’s World Cup on North American soil since this one, the first to be co-hosted by three countries, and the first to feature 48 teams. With these factors in mind, Smith said the audience at the stadium could be twice the size of any other. The 1994 flood mark, he said, will be “blown out of the water.”

“2026 will be much, much, much bigger [than 1994]’ agreed Infantino. “I think this part of the world doesn’t know what’s going to happen here in 2026. I mean, these three countries will be upside down. The world will invade Canada, Mexico and the United States. And they will be overwhelmed by a great wave of joy and happiness.”



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