The 2026 World Cup is still a long way out but that doesn’t mean 17 cities across the United States of America aren’t battling it out to host games.
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Let the final battle begin, as we now know the 11 host cities in the USA will be announced at the start of 2022 after site visits in the final months of 2021.
And some of those site visits have taken place recently.
FIFA released a statement with an updated timeline and agenda for the selection process, with site visits planned to take place this year to the 17 cities vying to host games.
It is hoped that the 11 U.S. venues which will host World Cup games will then be announced in early 2022, as two venues will be selected in both Canada (Edmonton and Toronto, as Montreal pulled out) and three in Mexico (Guadalajara, Monterrey and Mexico City) with 16 stadiums overall picked by FIFA, who have the final say for where games will be held in the tournament.
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.
Here’s the latest update:
FIFA and the host associations will organize virtual one-on-one meetings with each stadium to discuss infrastructural aspects from the end of February 2021 onwards.
From April 2021, FIFA and the host associations will launch targeted virtual discussions with each candidate host city.
Bearing in mind the constantly changing circumstances with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic, FIFA and the host associations will conduct venue visits from September to December in 2021.
FIFA said in a statement: “The visits will only take place if the health and safety situation in the host countries allows FIFA to do so. Realizing the commercial potential of each venue, as well as in terms of sustainability, human rights and event legacy, is of the utmost importance.”
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?
Below we rank the 17 venues vying for the 11 host stadium spots in the U.S., and share our thoughts on who we think deserves to have 2026 World Cup games.
Ranking potential 2026 World Cup venues
1. New York/New Jersey
2. Los Angeles (Rose Bowl Stadium)
3. Washington, D.C.
7. San Francisco/Bay Area
12. Kansas City
Analyzing potential host cities in USA
The first five 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, Nashville and Kansas City as the three cities who could be interchangeable with Denver, Philadelphia and Boston, depending on how their site visits shake out. It seems like Philly could be the big winner from Montreal dropping out.
What will FIFA be looking for?
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 11 because we all know the U.S. is able to host the World Cup on its own and the fact that five cities are expected to host games from both Mexico (3) and Canada (2) makes the competition for stadiums in the USA even stronger.
With neither Chicago (who pulled out of the bidding due to concerns for their 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.
Either way, the site visits in 2021 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.
Ranking which U.S. cities should host 2026 World Cup originally appeared on NBCSports.com