FIFA is reportedly demanding every 2026 World Cup host city have two extra stadiums on hand for watching on TV

So it turns out Chicago, Minneapolis, and Vancouver weren’t the only cities to bow out of bidding to be host cities for the 2026 World Cup because the FIFA demands were too rich for their blood; Las Vegas did so as well. And the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority has revealed one previously unannounced FIFA demand that is, frankly, jaw-dropping:

The requirements included providing two outdoor venues — each capable of seating 20,000 people to watch every tournament game on a big screen at no cost, [Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority President and Chief Operating Officer Steve] Hill said.

So if we’re taking this at its word*, every host city needs to have three stadiums — one to play in, and two to watch TV in. And they need to be outdoors, because what kind of crazy person watches games on a screen indoors?

In a lot of the prospective host cities — 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, if you needed a reminder — this won’t be too difficult, as there will be MLB and MLS facilities in place that can be used as well. (Or college football stadiums, as in Seattle, where the MLS team already plays in the stadium that would be used for the World Cup.) The bigger problem will be getting them for free: In most cases the local sports teams control the use of the venues, not the cities, which raises the possibility that cities may have to fork over big bucks to rent back the stadiums they themselves helped build in order to hand them over to FIFA to use for rent-free watch parties.

And then, there’s also the problem that the World Cup takes place in the middle of the baseball season, so will the Houston Astros — to pick a team at random — be asked to go on a month-long road trip so that their stadium can be used as a giant open-air movie theater for soccer fans?

The Las Vegas Review-Journal also reports that FIFA is requiring each city to put in place “world-class practice facilities shielded from the public” for teams playing in each host city, which, again, most cities probably have somewhere (depending on what you mean by “world-class”), but may not be able to access for free.

If the “two free bonus stadiums” thing is accurate — it’s not in the FIFA bid book, though really, not much is (the practice facilities are, though) — this is clearly going to be a large issue for many, if not most, of the prospective North American host cities. We have several years of ugly, ugly haggling ahead of us, so it’s important to figure out what the key sticking points are going to be sooner than later, before a whole lot of cities get stuck with some unexpected bills.

*UPDATE: We don’t need to take this at its word, phew.


22 comments on “FIFA is reportedly demanding every 2026 World Cup host city have two extra stadiums on hand for watching on TV

  1. Worth noting that when it comes to FIFA, not everything in the contract is set in stone. Qatar won the bid to host a summer World Cup… where it is 120 degrees in the summer… even though the bid specifically said it needed to be played in the summer. That tournament will now be held in December.

    Not defending FIFA here, but just a note that with them, EVERYTHING is negotiable.

    • Right, I’m sure this was an additional ask, not a strict bid book requirement. But if they made the same ask of every city, the fact that they got 23 cities to say, “Sure, that seems okay” — or at least “We’ll consider it” — is more than a bit worrisome.

  2. I think this just means fan zones aka parks. Like in NYC, one is in Central Park.

    • That would certainly make sense, but “venues” that “seat” 20,000 people sounds like something different.

      I’m going to call the Vegas stadium authority once they’re open today to see if they’ll tell me anything more.

      • 99.99% chance the Las-Vegas Review Journal’s use of the word “seating” in this article is simply a mistake, and they’re just talking about the Fan Zones.

        • I have now both emailed and left phone messages for the LVCVA. Will let you all know as soon as I hear anything.

    • I think this is correct. I reviewed the Boston sections of the bid book and the two areas they designated for “Fan Fest” are City Hall Plaza and Boston Common, both of which can handle 20,000+ visitors. City Hall Plaza has hosted Super Bowl/Stanley Cup/NBA Finals championship rallies for years.

      • OK, you might be overstating things with “Stanley Cup” and “for years.”

  3. It might lead to the absurdity in Toronto of having the games played at 35K with temps BMO while 55K watch on TV at Rogers Centre.

    • Outdoor!!! so unless they end up ripping the ripping the roof off that won’t happen.

      • Are you saying FIFA wouldn’t want to hold a watch party in the 8th Wonder of the World?

  4. There’s a chance that amphitheatres might be included in that requirement, but realistically, how many 20,000+ capacity bowls are out there, even within the major metro areas?

    Either way, I count 16 MLB cities (and 19 MLB venues) on that shortlist, along with 18 MLS cities (and 20 MLS venues), and both leagues will be in-season while the tournament is being held. Whoever ends up making the schedules for these leagues in 2026 should get a million dollar raise for just that one year.

    • Large plazas are fine. It’s not a new FIFA requirement, Neil simply has no idea about what he’s writing about, thus the claim about 20,000-seat stadiums. Based on nothing.

      • Hi, Michał!

        Since you’re new to the site, I note this, only for future reference: Saying things like “[X] has no idea what he’s talking about” is a personal attack, if directed at another commenter, it would be removed. (Directed at me it’s fine.) Saying “this statement is wrong” is fine, but the rule here is to criticize the comment, not the commenter.

        And it could well be that this ends up being about plazas, not stadiums. Until I hear back from the stadium authority (or the R-J’s reporter), we’re all just parsing what “venues capable of seating 20,000 people” means.

  5. Just to speak on the Houston hypothetical – theoretically there are 3 stadiums besides Minute Maid Park that would qualify (the MLS/Texas Southern stadium, the University of Houston’s stadium, and Rice Stadium). Rice is old enough that unless it gets a long discussed renovation it would probably not be considered. The other two are essentially brand new except in a world where 20 year old stadiums are considered obsolete.

  6. This is something one of my construction managers had posted on his office wall in the late 1980s. It seems perfectly apt here…

    The six phases of a project:

    1. Enthusiasm
    2. Disillusionment
    3. Panic
    4. Search for the guilty
    5. Punishment of the innocent
    6. Praise and Honours for the non-participants

  7. We already have all that built in Orlando within a 10 block radius. The 70,000 seat Camping World Stadium (will probably be expanded to 85,000 by 2026), Orlando City Stadium, and the outdoor venue of Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center which could easily accommodate 20K. Furthermore, the Amway Center could be used if it rains. An extra 250K fans in town is not a big deal for Orlando, it happens every other week with various conventions. We barely even blink during July, Feb race weeks at Daytona when over 200K race fans stay in Central Florida. I realize it may be a big deal for some cities, but when you are by far the largest tourist destination in the world with 72 million visitors last year, it’s what we do.

  8. Just heard back from the writer of the R-J story, and it sounds like “venues” could well include public plazas — this is worthy of a new post, so hang on.