Philadelphia could use a win.
Our town is strengthening its place as a global city, with thriving communities from all over the world. So what better way to unite us all than around The Beautiful Game — soccer.
Last week, a delegation from FIFA came to Philadelphia as part of the city’s bid to host six games of the 2026 men’s World Cup. David L. Cohen, Comcast executive and Joe Biden’s nominee for ambassador to Canada, has led the effort for the city and told this board the economic development and reputational potential for Philadelphia is enormous.
The bid did spark a conversation about the future of South Philadelphia’s Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park. A now-defunct golf course along Pattison Avenue has been proposed as one of six options for two soccer training fields. That stretch of land opened as a hiking trail shortly after the pandemic began and The Meadows, as the area became known, won over the hearts of many.
The plan to place soccer fields on the old golf course predates the World Cup bid. The city’s Parks and Recreation commissioner, Kathryn Ott Lovell, told this board that a planned recreational activity area in FDR Park is part of the 2019 Master Plan — a process that involved more than 3,000 residents.
David Masur, the executive director of PennEnvironment, which staked its opposition to the plan, told us he also views FDR Park as a multi-use space. His concern is that the completed project will result in far fewer nature trails.
Like so many issues in Philadelphia, it all comes down to trust. Hopefully, elements of the beloved Meadows will be incorporated in the city’s final plan.
Lovell said that should Philadelphia be selected to host the games, fund-raisers could be held to renovate the fields; after the event, the fields will be “gifted back to the city to be used for youth sports.” That would be a boon for those who crave more recreational space in the city. Outdoors sports facilities help build community, can facilitate youth programming, and allow for leisure activities that don’t require burning fossil fuels.
Yet even as city officials look toward 2026, they can’t lose sight of the children who want to play soccer today.
Luis Uribe is the organizer of Club Deportivo Los Lobos, a soccer program for about 200 children in South Philadelphia. His biggest challenge? Finding fields to play on.
Uribe says that FDR Park is a bit far for many of the families who walk with kids to practice and games, but the possibility of the city hosting the World Cup excites him — especially the prospect of seeing the kids play on a world-class field afterward. “That’s the best thing,” Uribe says of the proposed soccer fields. “I would apply to get space all week long.”
Hosting 2026 World Cup games could be the kind of win that Philadelphia needs in these trying times. But as we tout our city globally, we can’t take our eye off the ball — or miss a chance to improve green spaces and create the kind of much-needed recreational opportunities that can be used by every child in Philadelphia.