With World Cup 2026 matches awarded to the United States, Canada and Mexico, the next big decisions will be on the North American venues hosting the games.
Even though the United States/Canada/Mexico United came from the three countries, it was not an evenly distributed bid. With 60 matches on the schedule–40 in the United States, 10 in Mexico and 10 in Canada–there will be 16 locations hosting games. (Worth noting: the World Cup is expanding to 48 teams in 2026.) Finalizing these host cities and stadiums won’t happen for a few years, and the final decisions will be made by FIFA. While the original United Bid did list potential host cities, the more important portion of the bid related to the use of existing facilities with existing infrastructure, as opposed to the Moroccan bid calling for new stadiums and infrastructure. All in all, there are 23 potential venues; some are locks, some are not.
First, there really isn’t doubt that Mexico deserves and will land at least two tournament sites, if not three. Estadio Azteca in Mexico City is one of the most storied World Cup stadiums, having hosted two prior World Cup finals. There is probably little doubt a round will be played there. We’d expect Guadalajara’s Estadio Akron, which seats 48,000, and Monterrey’s BBVA Bancomer Stadium to host as well.
Once you move past these soccer-specific stadiums, however, the World Cup lineup will be dominated by NFL stadiums and college bowls. FIFA likes to play on large stages, and the largest in the United Bid was the New York City area, where there’s really only one venue large to host late-round matches: MetLife Stadium, home of the NFL’s New York Giants and New York Jets. Indeed, there is already talk of it being inevitable MetLife Stadium host the final (though MetLife Stadium officials are quick to point out there’s no final deal in place). Some work would be needed, however, to install a grass field.
Another large stage that could potentially host the 2026 World Cup final: Los Angeles. This raises some interesting issues. Among large venues, there’s a history of big events at the Rose Bowl. But with the new Los Angeles Rams stadium opening in 2020, we could see some competition for Los Angeles matches–unless FIFA can work out a deal for both.
In Canada, we’d expect FIFA to want to be in Toronto, but after renovations BMO Field holds only 30,000; in its current state, early-round matches may be possible. In Canada, Montreal would seem to be a lock to host: the city has already announced a new retractable roof will be installed at Olympic Stadium in time for the World Cup, allowing for the installation of a turf field. Edmonton is also on the list as a potential site at the 56,302-seat Commonwealth Stadium, but it would require the installation of grass to replace the existing artificial turf.
The same issue exists in Dallas (AT&T Stadium), Houston (NRG Stadium), Atlanta (Mercedez-Benz Stadium), Seattle (CenturyLink Field) and Boston (Gillette Stadium), which should also land World Cup matches. Again, nothing insurmountable. Levi’s Stadium is the leading venue in the San Francisco area, though Stanford Stadium hosted World Cup matches in 1994.
Past these leading contenders, there are cities identified in the bid that may be on the outside looking in. It’s unlikely both Orlando and Miami will host matches, and Hard Rock Stadium is a superior choice to Camping World Stadium. It’s unlikely both Baltimore and Washington, D.C., will host matches, and after all Washington is the nation’s capital with a venue, FedEx Field, that would be adequate. We can’t see Kansas City, Philadelphia, Nashville, Denver or Cincinnati hosting matches unless better bids falls through.