No matter what happens surrounding it, the World Cup in soccer is one of the most popular sporting events on Earth. The quadrennial tournament is so big that FIFA scandals, accusations of slave labor, and protests from citizens of the host countries do little, if anything, to derail its popularity.
Russia is slated to host the 2018 tournament, followed by Qatar’s groundbreaking and controversial turn in 2022. The 2026 tournament is up for grabs, and the United States is teaming with Canada and Mexico for a joint bid. The infrastructure all three countries already have in place could make for a winning bid.
“We’re not in a situation where we need to build anything. We don’t need to build stadiums,” U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati told media. “We need to build one thing: the sport. And that’s what our bid is about.”
The last, and only, time the United States hosted the tournament was 1994. Mexico hosted in 1970 and 1986, and Canada has never hosted the men’s tournament. The U.S. Soccer Federation identified 37 stadiums in 34 cities, many of them football stadiums, as potential game sites should the bid be successful. While the United States has its fair share of large stadiums, not all of them make the cut as potential game sites. If the World Cup comes to the United States in 2026, these are the 16 cities where you’re most likely to see games played, ranked by stadium seating capacity.
- Stadium: Soldier Field
- Seating capacity: 61,500
Any World Cup that comes to the United States in the future is likely to see Chicago host at least one game. It’s a world-renowned city that is no stranger to welcoming foreign visitors. Though the grass field has been prone to problems in the past, that likely wouldn’t prevent Soldier Field from hosting. The U.S. Soccer Federation is headquartered in Chicago, so it’s almost a given it would do anything to play a game in its own backyard.
Next: Rising in the desert
- Stadium: University of Phoenix Stadium
- Seating capacity: 63,400
Arizona’s sweltering summer heat wouldn’t be an issue for World Cup games as the stadium has a retractable dome. The grass playing surface survives thanks to a revolutionary retractable field that slides in and out of the stadium. The climate, field, and seating wouldn’t hinder Phoenix from hosting World Cup games, but the stadium’s distance from the city center (about 14 miles away in Glendale) could be a setback.
Next: Planned paradise in Sin City
14. Las Vegas
- Stadium: Raiders Stadium
- Seating capacity: 65,000
Right now, this venue is just a mirage in the desert, but if it is built it would almost surely be a World Cup host. Having enough hotel rooms would not be a problem, and the domed stadium would keep the playing conditions under control in the desert sun. It seems the only thing preventing Las Vegas from acting as a host city is any lengthy construction setbacks.
Next: South Beach stepping up
- Stadium: Hard Rock Stadium
- Seating capacity: 65,326
As one of the most recognizable cities in the United States, it would be a challenge to keep Miami from hosting World Cup games. Stadium upgrades that make for a better fan experience are also a plus. However, the stadium itself is about 15 miles away from downtown Miami, and it’s quite a commute if taking public transportation. And as we will see, a glut of Florida cities that meet the hosting requirements could lead to some attrition.
Next: The other side of the Sunshine State
12. Tampa, Florida
- Stadium: Raymond James Stadium
- Seating capacity: 65,890
Though perhaps not as ritzy as Miami, Tampa could be the front-runner if just one of the three Florida cities on this list is chosen. The stadium itself isn’t far from downtown Tampa, with several hotels and the airport also nearby. The Glazer family, owner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that play at Raymond James, is also a major player in European soccer as the owner of Manchester United. Those ties could push Tampa over the top.
Next: Northern Florida comes into play.
11. Jacksonville, Florida
- Stadium: EverBank Field
- Seating capacity: 67,246
The last of three Florida cities to appear on the list, Jacksonville has a lot going for it. The capacity of EverBank Field and its grass surface are big pluses. The fact that it’s another Florida city would either be a big plus or a huge negative. On the plus side, the World Cup games could be scheduled in a way where teams could play multiple games in Florida, thereby lessening the travel. The negative would be keeping visiting teams and their fans in one corner of the country and not spreading the wealth.
Next: Steel City could be a site.
- Stadium: Heinz Field
- Seating capacity: 68,400
If the U.S. had hosted the 2014 World Cup, Pittsburgh likely wouldn’t have made the list. The old playing surface at Heinz Field was prone to problems that would have made it a risky choice. A whole new field that was recently installed should make for better playing conditions. Whether that holds true in the future remains to be seen, but it puts Pittsburgh in the conversation.
Next: Bay-side site on the West Coast
9. San Francisco
- Stadium: Levi’s Stadium
- Seating capacity: 68,500
The home stadium of the San Francisco 49ers has a lot few things going for it. San Francisco is a cosmopolitan city well versed in hosting big events, and any games hosted there would surely pack in the crowds. The big minus, however, is the stadium is actually in Santa Clara, about 45 miles and at least an hour south of downtown San Francisco.
Next: Central Tennessee gets the nod.
- Stadium: Nissan Stadium
- Seating capacity: 69,143
Tennessee’s capital makes the list thanks to the home of the NFL’s Titans. The grass field is one plus, and the city is also a hotbed of convention activity, so it would know how to gracefully handle the massive amount of tourists that would pour in for the World Cup. Nashville is not necessarily known as a soccer hotbed. But if the goal of the U.S. Soccer Federation is to grow the sport domestically, then the city would be a smart choice.
Next: Crab cakes and fútbol?
- Stadium: M&T Bank Stadium
- Seating capacity: 71,008
The home to the Baltimore Ravens, M&T Bank Stadium is one of the stadiums that could host World Cup games. The natural grass playing field is a plus, but a knock is that Baltimore isn’t as glamorous a destination to foreign visitors as some other cities on the list. Still, it would likely be considered host World Cup games.
Next: Going to a Great Lake state
- Stadium: FirstEnergy Stadium
- Seating capacity: 73,200
The stadium size and grass field help put Cleveland’s FirstEnergy Stadium on the short list. However, the knocks on Cleveland are similar to other cities appearing later on the list. It’s not necessarily a destination for foreign tourists, and with fewer than 8,000 hotel rooms it might be a challenge to handle the influx of visitors.
Next: Carolina on the mind
5. Charlotte, North Carolina
- Stadium: Bank of America Stadium
- Seating Capacity: 75,525
The Carolina Panthers’ home stadium could be in the running if the U.S. gets the World Cup. Its size and grass field make it a winner, but like Baltimore and few cities on the list, Charlotte isn’t as known internationally. With the U.S. sharing hosting duties with Canada and Mexico, it could be tougher for a city like Charlotte to make the cut.
Next: Making the case for Kansas City
4. Kansas City, Missouri
- Stadium: Arrowhead Stadium
- Seating capacity: 79,541
Sitting nearly right in the middle of the continental United States, Kansas City might seem like an odd choice to host World Cup games. Yet the stadium is one of the most raucous in the U.S. And Kansas City is home to faithful soccer fans who have helped Sporting Kansas City finish in the top 10 in MLS attendance several times.
Next: A capital idea
3. Washington, D.C.
- Stadium: FedEx Field
- Seating capacity: 85,000
FedEx Field, the home of the Washington Redskins, would almost surely host games if the United States is awarded the World Cup. Though the stadium itself is in Hyattsville, Maryland, the fact that it is easily accessible from Washington by public transportation is a big plus. Some major cities could be left out in the cold, so having games here would help get at least one of the big cities in the Northeast involved in the tournament.
Next: The Lone Star State’s capital makes the cut.
- Stadium: Cotton Bowl
- Seating capacity: 92,100
AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, might not make the cut to host World Cup games if the U.S. wins the bid. The Cotton Bowl at the Texas State Fair, however, could bring games to Dallas. The grass playing surface, seating capacity, and proximity to downtown Dallas would make it a strong candidate to host World Cup games.
Next: Lights, camera, action
1. Los Angeles
- Stadium: L.A. Stadium at Hollywood Park
- Seating capacity: 100,000
The Coliseum in Los Angeles and the Rose Bowl in nearby Pasadena both meet two of the main requirements to host games. Both have natural grass playing surfaces and seat more than 90,000 people, but both are dated. The Rose Bowl was completed in 1922, and the Coliseum dates to 1932. If the World Cup goes to the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, the under-construction L.A. Stadium at Hollywood Park is the best bet to host several games, including the championship.
The huge planned seating capacity is one major bonus. The stadium is the baby of L.A. Rams owner Stan Kroenke, who has ties to the soccer world as owner of the Colorado Rapids of the MLS and English team Arsenal. The stadium is already set to host the Super Bowl in 2022, so a World Cup final isn’t out of the question.
Next: These big cities are likely out.
Not making the cut
A few big cities likely wouldn’t be considered if the three-country bid is successful. The 30 NFL stadiums that will be home to 32 teams in 2026 are all included in the bid. Yet only a few are likely to host games. The NFL stadiums in Atlanta, Boston, Cincinnati, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, New Orleans, New York, and Seattle wouldn’t make the cut. The NFL stadiums in those cities far exceed the 40,000-seat minimum to host games, but they all have one drawback: The playing surfaces at those stadiums are artificial turf.
FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, has shown a reluctance to play marquee games on fake grass. Games for the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada were played on turf, with much grumbling from players. While women’s games have taken place on turf, FIFA has been hesitant to contest meaningful men’s game on anything but grass. Unless that changes, or unless these stadiums switch to grass, they will miss out on hosting World Cup games.
Though not NFL stadiums, Birmingham’s Legion Field, Orlando’s Camping World Stadium, Rice Eccles Stadium at the University of Utah, and San Antonio’s Alamodome would likely suffer the same fate. San Antonio once tried laying sod over its artificial turf for a men’s game, and it did not work out well.
Next: Four might make it as hosts.
Cities that could be considered
A quartet of NFL stadiums might make the cut if the U.S. is awarded the World Cup. Denver’s Sports Authority Field at Mile High (76,125 capacity) and Green Bay’s Lambeau Field (81,435) both meet the seating threshold. Lambeau even surpasses the 80,000 needed to host the final. Yet both could be left off the list of tournament sites.
Green Bay has never hosted any U.S. soccer game, and with only a little over 3,500 hotel rooms, it seems like it won’t host anytime soon. Denver and nearby Aurora and Boulder have enough hotels to host, and the city has hosted high-level international soccer games before. Yet Sports Authority Field wasn’t even the site of the most recent U.S. men’s soccer game in the city.
Philadelphia would likely join Denver and Green Bay on the outside looking in. All three stadiums have hybrid fields of natural grass with synthetic bases that help the grass roots hold strong. That type of system holds up well to the rigors of the NFL, but FIFA might balk at playing games on anything that could be described as fake.
The newly minted San Diego County Credit Union Stadium checks the boxes for both seating capacity (70,000) and playing surface (grass), but the future of the building is in limbo. The NFL’s Chargers bolted after 2016 and now reside in Los Angeles. Without a tenant, San Diego will likely shutter the stadium. If it is still open in 2026 it could host games, but it seems unlikely the stadium will still be standing then.
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