FIFA not actually demanding every 2026 World Cup host city have two extra stadiums on hand for watching on TV, phew

So several readers wondered if the line in the Las Vegas Review-Journal article cited in my previous post about FIFA demanding “two outdoor venues — each capable of seating 20,000 people to watch every tournament game on a big screen at no cost” really meant outdoor venues, as I assumed, or just public plazas for fan zones, as has been done for past World Cups. I reached out to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, whose COO Steve Hill was quoted (well, paraphrased) as saying the thing about 20,000-seat venues, and didn’t hear back immediately — their press people are still trying to track Hill down for clarification.

But the Review-Journal’s reporter Rick Velotta did get back to me, and wrote this:

I specifically asked Steve Hill about this because I asked, “What about just opening up T-Mobile and Thomas & Mack?” He said they had to be strictly outdoor venues (which makes little sense to me, considering the tournament is in June/July).

So I asked, “What about Sam Boyd Stadium and maybe the Las Vegas Motor Speedway?” He said FIFA is looking for a new place to set up so that a big screen could be set up at one end. So it’s more like what you suggested … public space where a big screen and seating could be built.

So you’d be talking about not only a lot of space but a place where people could also park their cars.

My apologies, then, for getting anyone in a panic about having to build tons of new outdoor stadiums (or at least rent tons of old ones), as it appears that all FIFA really wants is two big-ass fields and 20,000 folding chairs and big video boards and a few thousand parking spaces. For around 100 games over the course of several weeks. And security for all that, of course. For free. Really, I don’t see what Las Vegas (and Chicago and Minneapolis and Vancouver) was even griping about — that’s nothing more than you’d offer to any multi-billion-dollar company visiting for a few weeks, right?

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.

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.

Friday roundup: Rangers to keep empty ballpark, football Hall of Fame seeks bailout, Goodell dreams of a new Bills stadium

Happy baseball season! Unless you’re a Miami Marlins fan, in which case it’s already ruined. But anyway:

Friday roundup: Why Pistons fans can’t bear to watch, Broncos land grab move, Donald Trump could win Morocco the World Cup, and more!

All evidence to the contrary, spring (and the spring end-of-legislative-session season) must be getting nearer, because the stack of weekly roundup news items in my Instapaper is getting longer and longer each week. Better get down to it:

Chicago, Minneapolis, Vancouver drop out of World Cup bid rather than grant FIFA a decade-long tax exemption

The leading candidate to host the 2026 World Cup has been a joint U.S./Canada/Mexico bid that would see the tournament take place across a long list of cities. And I put that in the present perfect progressive tense because what seemed a shoo-in looks a bit shakier now that Chicago, Minneapolis, and Vancouver have all removed themselves from the bid, on the grounds that FIFA’s demands for tax breaks and other concessions were just too much:

theBreaker has obtained a copy of FIFA’s requirements for governments bidding for 2026. The Swiss-based organization, still reeling from the FBI’s 2015 crackdown on FIFA’s massive bribery and kickbacks, requires host governments agree to grant it huge tax breaks for an entire decade and allow it to import and export unlimited amounts of foreign currency. FIFA also requires host taxpayers pick up the full bill for safety and security and assume liability should there be any security incident of any size…

For its workforce, FIFA wants a visa-free environment where work permits are issued “unconditionally and without any restriction or discrimination of any kind.”

“It is also requested to grant exemptions from labour law and other legislation for companies and personnel directly involved with the competition, provided that these exemptions do not undermine or compromise the government’s commitment to respecting, protecting and fulfilling human rights.”

That is a lot! And it was apparently a take-it-or-leave-it deal: British Columbia tourism minister Lisa Beare explained that her government withdrew from the bid because “there was no interest by FIFA to negotiate or address our concerns, and that the costs still remain unknown”; Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said that “FIFA could not provide a basic level of certainty on some major unknowns that put our city and taxpayers at risk”; and the Minneapolis bid committee issued a statement that “the inability to negotiate the terms of the various bid agreements did not provide our partners and our community with sufficient protections from future liability and unforeseen changes in commitments.”

The North American bid is still moving ahead with 23 locations — Edmonton, Montreal, and Toronto in Canada; Guadalajara, Mexico City, and Monterrey in Mexico; and Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Cincinnati, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, New York/New Jersey, Orlando, Philadelphia, San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle. and Washington in the U.S. — all of which apparently agreed to FIFA’s terms. But it’s still an unexpected hiccup in FIFA’s plans, and shows that at least some governments are willing to turn down a major sporting event if it requires handing over tens of millions of dollars in tax revenues and untold security costs along the way.