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Cincinnati will find out today if it hosts 2026 World Cup matches. What do experts think?

At this point, the only certainty around Cincinnati's bid to host FIFA men's World Cup matches in 2026 is that the years-long process ends Thursday.

While experts have consistently doubted Cincinnati's viability as a potential host site for the World Cup, one of the biggest and most glamorous sporting events on Earth, the city survived to reach finalist status in the bidding process and will learn its fate Thursday evening.

During an announcement ceremony in New York City, FIFA officials will designate a to-be-determined number of American cities to stage World Cup games as part of the 2026 tournament, which will be jointly hosted by the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

With the build-out of soccer-specific infrastructure in Cincinnati in recent years, the Greater Cincinnati region stands a reasonable chance to be involved in the 2026 World Cup in some form, possibly as a base camp and training site for one or several national teams during the tournament.

But the real prize cities are chasing is the games themselves, which could bring transformational changes to the venues and regions staging the contests.

Colin Smith, FIFA chief tournaments & events officer, left, and Victor Montagliani, FIFA vice president and CONCACAF president, right, listen during a news conference at Hard Rock Stadium, Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. FIFA representatives are visiting FIFA World Cup 2026 candidate host cities. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky) ORG XMIT: OTK

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While it's believed Cincinnati's bid presentation and follow-up site visits impressed and satisfied FIFA officials, its still unclear where the bid will land on Thursday.

Part of the difficulty in handicapping Cincinnati's 2026 World Cup is that the decision-making process was still developing and unfolding late in the process.

In addition to FIFA using recent days and weeks to tie up loose ends with bid leaders, it's unclear how many U.S. cities will be selected.

FIFA's stated intent was to select 10 U.S.-based markets in additions to three cities in Mexico and Canada, but experts and insiders have suggested this week that as many as 12 American cities could end up being awarded matches.

Of particular interest is the fate of Edmonton, whose Commonwealth Stadium in the capital city of Alberta, Canada, could be out of the running to host matches.

A development such as only two Canadian cities being awarded matches could open the door for additional American cities to be selected.

But win or lose, Thursday's announcement will bring to a close a bid by Cincinnati officials that sought to use soccer's biggest stage to elevate the region.

Jeff Berding, co-chief executive officer of FC Cincinnati and 2026 Cincy local organizing committee executive member, told The Enquirer Wednesday he believed Cincinnati is ready to realize ambitious aims such as hosting World Cup matches.

"When we first put Cincinnati forward to U.S. Soccer as a part of the effort to win the 2026 World Cup here in the U.S., Mexico and Canada, most people speculated (Cincinnati) was a longshot,"  Berding said. "Here we are on the verge of having a wonderful opportunity presented to Cincinnati, and I'm very proud of the bid and very grateful to all of the people who stepped up to get us to this point.

"There's a lot of pride in the bid from where we started... This new soccer culture has helped shine a spotlight on Cincinnati's growth, and I think that has aligned the World Cup bid, and maybe leveraged, the growth, the renaissance, the emergence of FC Cincinnati. All these things have gone hand-in-hand, working in support of one another. There's an awful lot of people in this community who deserve credit."

The World Cup competition facing Cincinnati

Cincinnati's bid is up against stadiums in Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, New York/New Jersey, Orlando, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington D.C./Baltimore.

For now, Thursday's FIFA reveal of the American cities that will host matches is supposed to be a closely-guarded secret.

What's far from secret is soccer experts around the country aren't giving Cincinnati's bid much of a chance. YahooSports stated Cincinnati's Paul Brown Stadium is still a longshot to be awarded matches while NBCSports ranked the city's bid last among the 16 still in contention.

Oddsmakers don't like Cincinnati's chances either. Bookies.com assessed Cincinnati as the longest shot to achieve World Cup host-city status for matches.

This isn't the first time Cincinnati's been doubted on the soccer front, of course.

While the two projects are dissimilar in many ways, some of the arguments against Cincinnati hosting World Cup matches resemble the cases made against FC Cincinnati's push for an expansion bid to join Major League Soccer.

Cincinnati ultimately realized its MLS ambitions, but it's certainly fair to say hosting World Cup matches is a very different, and in some ways more challenging, proposition.

Here's a look at the other U.S.-based stadiums vying to host matches, and some of their features and soccer history:

Atlanta - Mercedes-Benz Stadium (71,000 capacity; retractable roof and artificial playing surface). Other: Home to Atlanta United FC of Major League Soccer and has staged numerous high-profile matches including the 2018 MLS Cup and the 2018 MLS All-Star Game (MLS versus Juventus).

Boston - Gillette Stadium (65,878 capacity; open air and artificial playing surface). Other: Home to New England Revolution of MLS, has staged MLS Cup, Copa America Centenario (2016) matches, FIFA Women's World Cup (2003), and friendlies.  Also, old Foxboro Stadium hosted men's and women's World Cup matches in 1994 and 1999.

Cincinnati - Paul Brown Stadium (65,535 capacity; open air and artificial playing surface) More details here. Other: U.S. women's national team has played in the stadium. Cincinnati is home to five USWNT and U.S. men's national team matches since 2017 including November's USMNT-Mexico World Cup qualifier at TQL Stadium.

Dallas - AT&T Stadium (80,000 capacity; retractable roof and artificial playing surface).

Denver - Empower Field at Mile High (76,125; open air and grass playing surface)

Other: Has hosted Concacaf Gold Cup, Concacaf Nations League matches.

Houston - NRG Stadium (72,200 capacity; retractable roof and has previously featured grass playing surface). Other: Mexican national team has played matches in the arena, which also hosted Copa America Centenario matches in 2016).

Kansas City - Arrowhead Stadium (76,416 capacity; open air and grass playing surface). Other: Home to Kansas City's Major League Soccer franchise, now known as Sporting KC, through 2007.

Los Angeles - Rose Bowl (90,000 capacity; open air stadium and grass surface) and SoFi Stadium (70,000 capacity, partially enclosed and artificial surface). Other: Rose Bowl served as a venue during the 1994 Men's World Cup and 1999 Women's World Cup, with the championship matches of both tournaments taking place there. Also home to Concacaf Gold Cup and friendlies. SoFi Stadium hosted this year's NFL Super Bowl.

Miami - Hard Rock Stadium (65,326 capacity; open air and grass playing surface). Other: Earlier in its existence, the venue was a proposed site for the 1994 World Cup. Hard Rock Stadium has been home to several high-profile international and club friendly matches, including some as part of the International Champions Cup.

Nashville - Nissan Stadium (69,143 capacity; open air and grass playing surface but could be subject to major renovations or replacement). Other: Hosted 2021 USMNT World Cup qualifier vs. Canada, home to Nashville SC of MLS (2020, 2021). Also home to 2017 Concacaf Gold Cup matches.

New York/New Jersey - MetLife Stadium (82,500 capacity; open air and artificial playing surface). Other: Home to Copa America Centenario final in 2016. Also home to friendly matches. Also, old Giants Stadium staged matches for the 1994 FIFA men's World Cup and the 1999 women's World Cup.

Orlando - Camping World Stadium (65,000 capacity; open air). Other: Home to Orlando City SC prior to the construction of the club's soccer-specific stadium. Also home to Copa America Centenario.

Philadelphia - Lincoln Financial Field (67,594 capacity; open air and grass playing surface). Other: The first-ever event in the stadium was a friendly between FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC. Served as the short-term home to Philadelphia Union for two matches during its inaugural MLS season. Also home to Concacaf Gold Cup matches, FIFA women's World Cup (2003), USMNT 2010 World Cup Send-Off Series, Copa America Centenario, friendlies.

San Francisco - Levi's Stadium (68,500 capacity; open air and grass playing surface). Other: Home to Copa America Centenario matches.

Seattle - Lumen Field (67,000 capacity; open air and artificial surface). Other: Home to Seattle Sounders and has staged MLS Cup, Concacaf Champions League, 2022 Concacaf Champions League final (second leg), Copa America Centenario, friendlies.

Washington DC/Baltimore - M&T Bank Stadium (71,008 capacity; open air and grass playing surface).

How to watch the World Cup site announcement

Thursday's announcement by FIFA officials is scheduled to begin at 5 pm ET with TV Coverage on FS1, Telemundo and FIFA+.

Locals can attend a watch party at The Pitch, a soccer bar directly across Central Parkway from TQL Stadium and located at 1430 Central Pkwy.

The Enquirer will provide live coverage and real-time updates from Cincinnati's bid leaders following the announcement.

Mexico's & Canada's World Cup host cities

As previously mentioned, the U.S. is jointly hosting the 2026 World Cup with its neighbors to the north and south.

In those countries, the bidding to host matches appears to be playing out pretty straightforward.

In Mexico, the vaunted and world-famous Estadio Azteca is as close to a lock as it gets to hosting matches in 2026.

Azteca, located in Mexico City, is home to Club America and boasts being one of two venues in the world to host two separate FIFA World Cup finals (1970 and 1986).

It's also expected BBVA Stadium in Guadalupe, Nuevo León and the Estadio Akron in Guadalajara will host matches.

BBVA Stadium is the glittering, 51,000 capacity home of C.F. Monterrey, and featured a canopied roof that bows in one end of the stadium to reveal a scenic view of the Cera de la Silla mountain. The stadium opened in 2015.

Estadio Akron is home to Chivas Guadalajara and features a 46,355 capacity. It opened in 2010.

In Canada, Vancouver's BC Place and Toronto's BMO Field are widely expected to be named World Cup sites. And again, Edmonton, Alberta's Commonwealth Stadium is in the running but might fail to earn matches.

During qualifying games for the upcoming World Cup in Qatar, the Canada men's national team used a frigid, snowy Commonwealth Stadium to defeat Costa Rica and Mexico in November.

But while the venue served as a fortress in qualifying for the Canadians, some have suggested the stadium might be lacking in amenities.

BC Place hosted the 2015 women's World Cup final and accommodated 53,341 for the contest, which was won by the USWNT.

BMO Field opened in 2007 and has already undergone expansion in its history. It's expected to expand again for the 2026 World Cup, this time from its current capacity of 30,000 and at least 45,000, according to reports.

BMO Field has hosted MLS Cup finals, both as a neutral site and as the home stadium for Toronto FC, and is steeped in history for the various Concacaf competitions staged there.

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: World Cup 2026 announcement today. Will Cincinnati host games?