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

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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 host cities in the USA will be announced in the spring of 2022 after site visits in the final months of 2021.

FIFA have not confirmed how many of the 17 host cities they will select from the U.S. or how many host cities they will be selecting across the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Initially was supposed to be 16 (10 from the USA and three each from Canada and Mexico).

Two venues will be selected in Canada (Edmonton and Toronto, as Montreal pulled out) and three in Mexico (Guadalajara, Monterrey and Mexico City), while FIFA will have the final say for where games will be held in the tournament and how many host cities they select.

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 10 host stadium spots in the U.S., and share our thoughts on who we think deserves to have 2026 World Cup games.

We are sticking with 10 host cities in the U.S. for now, but FIFA may up that to 11 due to Montreal pulling out of the bidding in Canada.

Ranking potential 2026 World Cup venues

Host cities

1. New York/New Jersey (MetLife Stadium)
2. Los Angeles (Rose Bowl Stadium or Inglewood)
3. Washington, D.C. (FedEx Field)
4. Miami (Hard Rock Stadium)
5. Seattle (Lumen Field)
6. Atlanta (Mercedes-Benz Stadium)
7. San Francisco/Bay Area (Levi’s Stadium)
8. Dallas (AT&T Stadium)
9. Boston (Gillette Stadium)
10. Denver (Mile High)

11. Philadelphia (Lincoln Financial Field) – *On the bubble depending on how many stadiums FIFA selects in USA

Missing out
12. Kansas City (Arrowhead Stadium)
13. Houston (NRG Stadium)
14. Nashville (Nissan Stadium)
15. Orlando (Camping World Stadium)
16. Baltimore (M&T Bank Stadium)
17. Cincinnati (Paul Brown Stadium)

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. 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, while we shouldn’t rule out that Houston can host games indoors at NRG Stadium (which is a huge plus in the summer months) and the Texas city has grown massively as a soccer hub in recent years.

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 10 because we all know the U.S. is able to host the World Cup on its own and the fact that at least five cities are expected to host games from both Mexico (3) and Canada (2) makes the competition for host city status 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 deadline for host cities to bid, it’s worth nothing that FIFA has the final say.

Either way, the site visits 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 North America in 2026.