Friday Newsletter: New Info on U.S. World Cup 2026 Bid Cities
Plus I Answer Your Mailbag Queries
Last week’s Friday newsletter handicapping the race to be one of the 10 U.S. host cities for World Cup 2026 drew a ton of response, both from readers and from additional sources who filled my inbox with all sorts of intriguing information. So this week I did some more digging and learned a few more things.
The usual caveats apply here. Nothing is set in stone yet, and I’m merely using the information I’m hearing from sources to handicap the race ahead of the official announcement set for mid-June. So let’s dive in:
• Bid cities are nervous about an upcoming document from FIFA. We wrote last week about the frustration and fatigue felt by U.S. bid cities with FIFA over how overly long the process has taken. One of the biggest worries now from the bid committees is over a new addendum document that FIFA told cities late last year would be coming their way. Six months later, that document has yet to arrive, and cities are worried that in it FIFA will press to put more costs on the host cities at such a late moment in the bidding cycle. FIFA has a lot of leverage now and knows it, and it traditionally wants to push as many costs onto the host cities as possible. But will the cities play along or push back?
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• No city has risen more during the bidding process than Philadelphia. I wrote last week about the likelihood that Lincoln Financial Field in Philly would get World Cup games, not least because the Comcast-connected bid told FIFA it had already raised significant amounts of money, while other bid cities have merely made promises to do so. This week I was told that Philadelphia has risen so much that it’s now actively in the running to get one of the World Cup semifinal games.
FIFA likes that Philly has close proximity to MetLife Stadium in the New York City area, which is expected to host the final. I’m also told that Philadelphia’s rise has likely hurt the candidacy of Baltimore, just 100 miles away, which recently joined forces with Washington D.C. (with games being in Baltimore and a fan fest likely in D.C.).
Keep in mind, though, that in FIFA’s mid-June announcement it is not expected to name which cities will host the World Cup opening game, semifinals and final. Look for those announcements to come sometime in 2023.
• FIFA’s proposed new U.S.-based commercial headquarters is being used in World Cup bid negotiations. The New York Times broke the news last September that FIFA is considering moving its commercial HQ from Zürich to a city in the United States. This week I learned that FIFA has brought up this topic in talks with some of the U.S. World Cup bid cities in the biggest metropolitan areas. Will the possibility of landing FIFA full-time in their city cause some bids to make additional promises? We’ll see.
• Boston/Foxboro would be considered the biggest surprise if it doesn’t get World Cup games, but that could indeed happen. As we mentioned last week, New England Patriots/Revolution owner Bob Kraft was the honorary chair of the 2026 bid committee, is considered one of the founders of Major League Soccer and has a personal relationship with FIFA president Gianni Infantino. But Foxboro has some issues. One, Gillette Stadium is a long way (28 miles) from downtown Boston.
Two, and perhaps even more importantly, a source with knowledge of the situation told me this week that Boston mayor Michelle Wu—an acolyte of Sen. Elizabeth Warren who took office last November—has had tension recently with the Foxboro bid leaders over how much the city of Boston will contribute to the World Cup effort. Getting money from cities matters. World Cup cities provide support for security, the staging of fan fests, transportation (of teams, officials and fans on extra public routes) and often the fixes required for stadiums to be compliant with FIFA regulations (such as the width of the field). Some cities, like Chicago, balked so much at those things that they refused to bid for the World Cup.
However, when I contacted the Boston mayor’s office this week, a city spokesperson told me this: “The city has been very supportive of the 2026 World Cup bid since the beginning of the selection process. We look forward to continuing to work with the Gillette Stadium team on Boston’s bid to be a host city in 2026.”
• Boston, Kansas City and Baltimore/Washington D.C. appear to be on the bubble. Several people I heard from liked my list of the 10 U.S. cities I handicapped as the favorites last week: Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, New York/New Jersey, Philadelphia, San Francisco Bay Area and Seattle. But others said they thought Boston (and not Kansas City) would be in, and still others said they thought there was little chance FIFA would choose against a bid featuring the nation’s capital (Baltimore/Washington) during the 250th-year celebration of the United States, even though the games would be taking place in Baltimore.
• Miami’s annual Formula One race could be a complication. Miami’s annual F1 race will take place in early May—the first one is next week, May 8—in a location right around Hard Rock Stadium. But FIFA is wary of other big sporting events taking place around the World Cup and requires non-exclusive access to stadiums for three months prior and two months after World Cup games and exclusive access for 30 days prior and seven days after World Cup games. What’s more, FIFA doesn’t want World Cup cities to devote greater resources to promoting another big sporting event in the year prior to the World Cup.
As reported here last week, though, FIFA is expected to choose one Florida city from Miami and Orlando, and despite Miami’s issues with its presentation to FIFA, it’s still expected to get World Cup games.
• Will FIFA want pods? That’s one of the big questions I’m hearing. The U.S., Canada and Mexico cover a giant expanse of land, and if you want to limit travel for World Cup teams, it could help to have World Cup cities that aren’t far apart. If that’s the case, Vancouver’s recent re-entry as a likely host city may be a benefit for the chances of Seattle (just 142 miles away). Meanwhile, Denver’s relative isolation from other bid cities could be a problem for that city’s bid. Philadelphia’s proximity to New York City could help it land a semifinal in a tournament that is likely to move from west to east during the knockout rounds.
• Lastly. One common feeling from my sources was voiced this way: “No one wants to go to Edmonton.”
What are your thoughts on the World Cup 2026 bid-city competition? Feel free to write them in the comments below. And if you have any information that could be helpful for an ongoing story, my Twitter DMs are open.
OPENING THE MAILBAG
Unlike the major European leagues, MLS has had quite a bit of turnover of the top teams on a year-to-year basis. While this is a popular concept in American sports, do you think it hurts the perception of the league in the eyes of the world? Also, do you think the current playoff format is good for the league with single-elimination games vs ties?
I worry more about the perception of MLS in the United States than I do about its perception in the eyes of the world. I don’t think anybody out there wants to have a situation in a league where one powerhouse like Bayern Munich wins the league 10 years in a row. But I do run into people who think it’s important that a league have heavyweight teams that everyone loves to hate or admire. MLS doesn’t really have that.
If Seattle wins the CCL but doesn’t make the playoffs, will their season be a success or failure and would Brian Schmetzer comfortably keep his job?
I know Seattle is off to a rough start in the league, but there’s plenty of time to make up for that, and I think the Sounders will do that. But honestly, it’s hard for me to imagine a scenario right now where any kind of on-field performance this season would cause Schmetzer to lose his job.
Where should Christian Pulisic move to to get playing time? I’m a fan of Spain because of the overall La Liga style of play. What are your thoughts, Grant?
I think it’s going to be kind of hard for Pulisic to make a move this summer, mainly because it would be hard for Chelsea to get a price that would approach the $72 million transfer fee it paid for Pulisic. But let’s say Pulisic does make a move. I do think Borussia Dortmund needs more Marco Reus types—good established players to go along with its stepping-stone young stars to actually win some trophies. Pulisic knows exactly how things work at Dortmund, and I think it could be a good fit. Otherwise, even an Italian or Spanish team could work well for Pulisic, though it’s a little hard to generalize that much since there’s a significant amount of playing-style variation within those leagues these days.
With how dominant the Barcelona women's team has been the last few years, what does that mean for Spain's chances in the Euros this year and the World Cup next year?
This is the big question right now about Spain, which has yet to perform at the level Barcelona has in the club game. Obviously, some of Barça’s best players also represent Spain, including Alexia Putellas, Aitana Bonmatí, Jenni Hermoso, Patri Guijarro, Mariona Caldentey, Claudia Pina, Leila Ouahabi, Irene Paredes, Mapi León and Sandra Paños. But Spain has never been higher than No. 7 in the FIFA world rankings, which is exactly where it is right now. This summer’s Euros are going to be a major test, and I can’t wait to see whether they pass it.
Are you (both) going to Seattle for the CCL Final? If not, why not? ;-)
I’ll be there! Not sure if you’re referring to my wife. She won’t be making it, but my brother and his husband, who live in Seattle, will be there. It’s going to be a blast.
How should the USMNT use the CONCACAF Nations League? To get the regulars playing time or fill out the rest of the World Cup roster? Start the A team or B team?
Gregg Berhalter has already said he’ll bring in his A squad for the four June games, which include two Nations League games against Grenada and El Salvador. That’s because the U.S. doesn’t have many games at all before the start of the World Cup. I guess we’ll see what happens for CNL group games after the World Cup. That might be a different proposition.
Smarten me up on why you think women’s soccer will be the biggest global sports story in the next 50 years. And what is your measurement?
In part, I think it will be because 1) Soccer is the most global of all sports, 2) there are still many countries where very few women play soccer at all, 3) the growth potential of women’s sports is enormous. I think the next 50 years of women’s soccer are a story of both sports and society.
Can we revisit how USA / North America received the 2026 hosting rights for the World Cup? And how Fox broadcasting rights were extended to 2026? Why were those different?
For World Cup 2026, there was a bidding process, and the U.S. won the vote involving all FIFA member countries to beat out the bid from Morocco. For the television rights for World Cup 2026, Fox Sports (U.S. English-language), Telemundo (U.S. Spanish-language) and Canada’s CTV/TSN all saw their rights extended for a four-year cycle in 2015 without a competitive bidding process. That’s because lawyers from Fox had threatened to sue FIFA for moving the timing of World Cup 2022 from June/July to November/December—a time of the year when American football and other sports provide more competition for the World Cup in the U.S. sports calendar. FIFA made the calculation that it was better off extending the rights deals without a competitive bid instead of getting into a court battle with one of its rights holders. That said, FIFA members might have a legitimate gripe about the decision made by FIFA leaders, which no doubt left a huge amount of money on the table (especially once the 2026 World Cup went to North America in 2018).
With five matches to go in the Premier League, who finishes first, who finishes fourth, and who gets relegated?
2. Manchester City
Relegated: Norwich, Watford, Everton.
Any idea why some ABC affiliates chose not to show Bayern vs. Dortmund on Sunday? I live in the Chicago area and my ABC station was showing a nature show.
It’s up to local affiliates what they want to air on their channels in those situations, but it’s wild to me that Chicago and Miami chose not to air soccer.
Have a good weekend!
Grant your reporting on WC26 sites is terrific, many thanks for the extra effort!
When I asked about "both" attending CCL I actually meant @ChrisWittyngham but perhaps yours was the better interpretation :-).
I am tired of people knocking Edmonton. It is very underrated and is a great place to visit. It has North America's largest green space full of attractions, activities and festivals. The summers are awesome with late sunsets and good weather. It has fantastic food options from all parts of the world. There is a national park nearby. The mountains are relatively close. It would be totally unfair if Vancouver is in at the expense of Edmonton who has been in this all the way through. That's a red card in my mind if that happens.