U.S., Canada, Mexico Win Right to Host Quadrennial Traveling Soccer Grift

It’s official: The 2026 World Cup has been awarded to a joint bid by the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The North American bid won out over one by Morocco by a 134-65 vote of FIFA member nations, if FIFA vote numbers can really be said to mean anything at all.

Anyway, aside from a whole lot of people now making June 2026 travel plans — I personally am torn between wanting to watch top international soccer and wanting to rent out my apartment to a bunch of Icelanders eager to watch their team — the obvious big question is: What will this mean in terms of building and upgrading stadiums? Obviously, the North American nations have a lot more World Cup–ready stadiums than Morocco, which was going to have to spend $15.8 billion on new or renovated stadiums if it had won. But still, FIFA has high expectations — Russia had lots of stadiums already before this year’s World Cup, but still ended up spending $11 billion (not only on stadiums, but mostly) — and even relatively new venues could be deemed in need of upgrades after another eight years has passed, given the way “aging” keeps getting defined down.

The North American bid included 23 cities (deep breath): Mexico City, Guadalajara, Monterrey, Edmonton, Montreal, Toronto, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Atlanta, Nashville, Orlando, Miami, Cincinnati, Kansas City, Dallas, Houston, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle; not all of those will ultimately end up hosting games, even with an expanded 48-team field, but all will be in the running. Several other cities, such as Chicago, Minneapolis, and Vancouver, bowed out of the running after deciding that they didn’t want to be subject to FIFA’s demands, which can include stadium upgrades, security costs, and tax breaks.

One big issue is bound to be grass vs. turf fields, since a lot of the proposed U.S. stadiums are home to NFL teams and so use fake turf, while FIFA insists that the World Cup — the men’s World Cup, anyway — be played on grass. Obvious candidates for a World Cup final, for example, would be either MetLife Stadium in New York (really New Jersey) or the new Inglewood stadium in Los Angeles (really Inglewood), given the size of the media markets and hotel capacity; however, both have artificial turf, and it’s tough to see the biggest game in international soccer being played on a bunch of grass trays that look like it.

I’ll no doubt be researching this more over the next eight years, so stay tuned. But given that FIFA is involved, as well as U.S. sports team owners who will use pretty much anything at all as a pretext to demand a new or renovated stadium, and this has bad news written all over it for North American taxpayers. Even if the prospect of seeing these guys suit up within driving distance of your home is kind of cool.


27 comments on “U.S., Canada, Mexico Win Right to Host Quadrennial Traveling Soccer Grift

  1. I love that there is enough stadium news to keep this site updated daily.

    I’d put $ on the Rose Bowl being the site of the final. SoCal for the Mexican contingent is an easy sell and LA area is LA. Noon start there is 8 or 9pm in Europe too.

    • There is way more than enough stadium news to keep this site updated daily. I could easily make this a full-time job, if only it were, you know, a job with pay and everything.

      It’s hard to see FIFA passing up the new Inglewood stadium with all its bells and whistles for the Rose Bowl, but really who knows what FIFA will do (other than those who are bribing it). It did occur to me that an East Coast city would make more sense for European/African audiences, but there aren’t a ton of East Coast stadiums that seem like great locations.

      This is all going to end up playing a huge role in the Washington NFL team’s negotiations for a new stadium, I can smell it already.

      • Isn’t FIFA less concerned with luxury boxes that actual seats? The Rose Bowl will likely seat over 20,000 more than Inglewood.

        Wasn’t it announced that the final is in East Rutherford?

        • New Jersey is “expected” to host the final, but doesn’t look like that’s final yet:

          https://www.theguardian.com/football/2018/jun/13/three-hosts-48-teams-how-the-2026-world-cup-will-work-united

  2. As a soccer lover I find One additional good thing about the Inited bid winning is that it gets more FIFA activities within the jurisdiction of US and Canadian courts. It is telling that Sepp Blatter stayed away from the WEC final in Canada in 2015. Rumor was he was afraid of getting arrested.

    • Yes, my understanding is that many of FIFA’s top execs had been avoiding US and US friendly jurisdictions for quite some time before AG Lynch issued charges.

      Who would know better than they what those coming charges might have been?

  3. I’m a bit surprised that Orlando is still in the running to be a host site, given that it has the worst stadium situation out of all the remaining cities aside from maybe Montreal. Even after a complete remodel of the lower bowl, a lot of work needs to be done to bring the venue up to World Cup standards — renovation and addition of more luxury boxes, a possible demo and rebuild of the upper bowls, making the area around the stadium more presentable to the public (if they so wish; they haven’t really done it with OCSC’s stadium), the whole bit.

    Bringing in real grass and hoping it stays intact enough to be playable through the month of June might actually be the easiest part of the equation by far

      • Although it was under a different stadium expectations, they were a host city in 1994. At first I wondered why they made it as one of 12 host venues, and then it was clear: Disneyworld. That corporate synergy will not be denied. I don’t think FIFA can justify two Florida venues, so it may be to Miami’s loss. Well, unless Beckham gets his team there. So much drama to be had…

        • Mark:

          Miami would probably have been chosen over Orlando in ’94, but the Marlins were occupying the stadium and MLB refused to accommodate FIFA (as you can imagine, a lot of stadiums weren’t available because of this). With the most recent renovation in Miami, it would be quite a surprise if they weren’t chosen over Orlando.

    • Oh. That money is coming. The Citrus Bowl/Camping World will get money to complete the long term plans and upgrade that ensue significantly.

  4. The Bid Book states that real grass will be installed in all stadiums that currently use artificial turf for NFL football. (The same thing was done in 1994.)

    The real problem will be the narrow dimensions of the field of play in most of these stadiums. The pitches at MetLife and AT&T Stadiums, in particular, while within FIFA regulations, seem very cramped for international soccer. There’s really nothing that can be done about that, though.

    • Will be installed permanently, or in trays? Permanent grass is going to be tough in any NFL stadiums, let alone in domes.

      • Even the stadiums that have grass regularly will have problems…I’m no expert here but soccer seems to use a different breed and cut of grass than football. Anyone who’s seen an NFL game in Wembley has seen giant patches of grass coming out of the ground. And I can’t see NFL and/or NCAA teams wanting to replace their usual grass for the soccer stuff, and have it cut much shorter like soccer seems to do.

        • Wembley is a different animal entirely. Because it was SO far over budget, the stadium owner (the FA) and operators have had to schedule far more events than would be ideal… which means the grass is continually being covered or used for things soccer pitches aren’t really supposed to be used for.

          The turf there has been a huge issue for the clubs that play there. If anything, this year has been a bit better because Spurs are playing there full time, so non soccer events appear to have been reduced for the season(s) Spurs will play there.

          Re: NFL use, there’s a world of difference between having 20 140lb PL footballers running on a pitch and 22 220-350lb NFL players do the same – particularly when the biggest and strongest 12 of the 22 on the field at any time are all confined more or less to the centre of the pitch/field.

          It’s not so much that the grass is different as the demands players make on it are.

  5. Congrats to Morocco for inadvertently avoiding the same sort of financial ruin that befell Greece, Brazil, South Africa, and so many other.

    I guess if you want to find some silver lining in the North America bid winning, at least it’s much more assured than normal that the stadiums won’t end up as abandoned, cat-infested ruins.

    • For real! Who says the USA is no longer a beacon of hope for the world? we just saved Morocco from itself!

      • Absolutely. But will hosting the World Cup (most of it) be cheaper than invading Morrocco to save it from itself would have been?

        You know that a bundle of these relatively new facilities will be found in need of “significant upgrades” by 2026… I’m still betting some owners will try to find ways to wrangle new stadia for their teams (or expansion teams)…

  6. Toronto Mayor:

    “It really is a once-in-a-generation opportunity,” John Tory said. “This is a good investment for tourism, a good investment for sports, a good investment to put Toronto on the map.”

    Tory said co-hosting would cost Toronto an estimated $30 million, which would be split between the three levels of government, but he did not provide an estimated dollar value for the expected return on investment.

  7. I think they’ve already announced the 2026 final will be a “New Meadowlands Stadium” i.e. the non-ad name for MetLife Stadium.

    http://www.nj.com/times-sports/index.ssf/2018/06/usa_mexico_canada_joint_bid_wi.html

  8. I was going to make a joke about Edmonton being the random Manaus-type city added to the major cities in the list, but I guess they needed one western Canadian city with Vancouver out of the running (Calgary I guess said no).

    Also, due to Edmonton’s latitude, it will be cool to have an 9 pm game played in daylight and early twilight.

  9. There really should be little need in US cities for major upgrades (outside candidates like Washington, unless FEDEX is really under consideration). Most Russian stadiums really were dilapidated by any standard (other than the Cincinnati Bengals standard, anyway), possibly due to Russian soccer games generally being something like an MMA staredown between Russian fans and riot police. In some cases, Russia took old Soviet stadiums, modernized the inner bowl with some premium seating, and added temporary seating. “Megatron’s Sphincter” is not really in existence there.

    Virtually any US stadium on that list far exceeds the total and corporate seating requirements of any World Cup since 1994 (other than maybe Korea/Japan), thanks to the generosity of the US taxpayer. It really is a dream come true for FIFA. The US’s increasingly decrepit transportation infrastructure may be an issue, and perhaps a couple major events will encourage some investment in this area…ok, maybe not.

    • As noted above, Vancouver withdrew because of FIFA’s exorbitant demands.

      http://www.fieldofschemes.com/2018/03/16/13565/chicago-minneapolis-vancouver-drop-out-of-world-cup-bid-rather-than-grant-fifa-a-decade-long-tax-exemption/

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