Ranking which U.S. cities should host 2026 World Cup

Joe Prince-Wright
NBC Sports

The 2026 World Cup is still a long way out but that doesn’t mean cities across the United States of America aren’t battling it out to host games.

Let the battle begin.

A report from Yahoo’s Doug McIntyre pointed out that host venues have been sent letters by U.S. Soccer as site visits will take place this year to the 17 cities vying to host games. The 10 U.S. venues which will host World Cup games will then be announced early in 2021, as three venues will be selected in both Canada (Edmonton, Toronto and Montreal) and Mexico (Guadalajara, Monterrey and Mexico City) with 16 stadiums overall picked by FIFA, who have the final say.

The 2026 World Cup will be the largest in history with 80 games played overall, 60 of which will be in the USA and the entire tournament from the quarterfinal stage onwards will be in the U.S.

As far as the next step for potential host cities, according to the letter U.S. Soccer sent to officials from each host city, they are as follows via Yahoo:

  • Former U.S. Soccer CEO Dan Flynn, who retired from that role last year, has been charged with leading the process and will be the main point of contact for the bidding cities.

  • Each stadium site will be visited twice by the selection committee between March and November 2020. The cities will also participate in “workshops” with Dan Flynn’s team next month, then make final proposals for inclusion before the list is whittled down.

  • Specific details regarding the selection process, including “structure, timeline, delegation, methodology, etc.” will be presented during the workshops, the letter said.

This has got us thinking: How have things moved on for potential host cities since the announcement in 2018 that the U.S., Mexico and Canada would be hosting the expanded 48-team tournament?

With that in mind we rank the 17 venues vying for the 10 host stadium spots in the U.S. below, and share our thoughts on who we think deserves to have 2026 World Cup games.

Ranking potential 2026 World Cup venues

Host cities

1. New York/New Jersey
2. Los Angeles (Rose Bowl Stadium or new Inglewood NFL stadium)
3. Washington, D.C.
4. Miami
5. Seattle
6. Atlanta
7. San Francisco/Bay Area
8. Dallas
9. Boston
10. Denver

Missing out
11. Kansas City
12. Philadelphia
13. Houston
14. Nashville
15. Orlando
16. Baltimore
17. Cincinnati

Analysis

The first six cities on this list pick themselves. New York, LA, Washington D.C., Miami and Seattle are all cities entrenched with rich soccer culture and they are spread in all four corners of the U.S. But then it starts to get tricky, Atlanta has jumped to the top of the list due to the success of Atlanta United in MLS, while logistically it makes sense to have games in the Bay Area, Dallas and Denver to link up the west coast and midwest respectively, while Boston’s rich sporting heritage has to be factored in. The likes of Baltimore, Cincinnati and Nashville seem like outsiders and even Orlando can be put in that category as Miami will likely get the nod in Florida. So that leaves Houston, Philly and Kansas City as the three cities who could be interchangeable with Denver, Dallas and Boston, depending on how their site visits shake out. Remember: the location of venues as well as transport, hotels and other local infrastructure all plays a big part in picking host cities. Tens of thousands of extra fans will flock to the city where the game is being played without tickets just to be there.

It is so tough to whittle down this list to just 10 because we all know the U.S. is able to host the World Cup on its own and the fact that three cities are expected to host games from both Mexico and Canada makes the competition for stadiums in the USA even stronger. With neither Chicago (who pulled out of the bidding due to concerns over taxpayers after FIFA didn’t negotiate) or Vancouver currently in the running as host cities as they missed the initial deadline for host cities to bid, it is worth nothing that FIFA has the final say and they could demand either one of those cities is included in the bid. Either way, the site visits in 2020 will be very interesting as cities across the U.S. roll out the red carpet for U.S. Soccer as they try and get a slice of the action as the biggest party on the planet comes to the USA in 2026.

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