On Thursday night, world soccer’s governing body FIFA will announce the cities that will host the 2026 men’s soccer World Cup across the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Philadelphia is one of 16 American cities competing to win, with FIFA likely to pick 10 — but there could be more. There are also three candidate cities in Canada and three in Mexico. Here’s a look at each of them and their odds of success.
Venue: Mercedes-Benz Stadium (capacity 71,000)
What to know: The home of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons and MLS’s Atlanta United is a near-lock, thanks as much to its retractable roof as its downtown location. Atlanta has also grown into a major soccer hotbed in recent years. The city could host FIFA’s International Broadcast Center because of its big airport and other infrastructure.
Will it win? Yes.
Venue: Gillette Stadium (capacity 65,878)
What to know: The Patriots and Revolution’s building is fine, but its location is a huge black mark. Visiting national teams hate the long, traffic-filled ride from downtown Boston to the far suburbs. Fans hate the minuscule public transit access. And sources have told The Inquirer that there hasn’t been much regional cooperation between Boston officials and Robert Kraft, the Patriots and Revs owner who’s a close friend of FIFA president Gianni Infantino. The rumor is bid officials already know their fate.
Will it win? No.
Venue: Paul Brown Stadium (capacity 65,515)
What to know: A smaller city with a big downtown stadium would seem to be a recipe for success. But the Bengals’ modern venue would need over $10 million in renovations, from installing natural grass over the artificial turf to removing seats so the field can be regulation width. It also doesn’t help that Cincinnati’s airport is far from the city, and there’s very little public transportation.
Will it win? No.
Venue: AT&T Stadium (80,000)
What to know: A lock from the day the bid launched. FIFA loves all those fancy suites, and the retractable roof overhead. So how did it take so long to tell Jerry Jones the field is too narrow? His answer: raise the grass surface a few feet above the gridiron.
Will it win? The Cowboys won’t blow this one.
Venue: Empower Field at Mile High (76,125)
What to know: The Broncos’ stadium is great, the location is ideal, and the city would be a fine host — except for one big problem. Teams don’t want to play at the mile-high altitude.
Will it win? Probably not.
Venue: NRG Stadium (72,220)
What to know: The Texans’ stadium has a retractable roof, which means games can be played in the afternoon even when it’s blazing hot out. That plus proximity to Mexico and a big soccer fan base makes this pick easy.
Will it win? Almost certainly.
Venue: Arrowhead Stadium (76,416)
What to know: It’s a terrific soccer city, and one of the only Midwestern cities in the race. The big question local organizers face is how to get thousands of visitors from the airport to downtown to the stadium and back, without much public transit in the region.
Will it win? The ultimate bubble city. If FIFA picks more than 10 venues, yes — and the odds of that are growing.
Venues: SoFi Stadium (70,240) and the Rose Bowl (92,542)
What to know: That L.A. will win is a slam dunk. But the bid faced embarrassment when it was revealed that the playing surface at the Rams and Chargers’ palatial stadium in Inglewood isn’t wide enough for international soccer. $5 billion in spending and they couldn’t get that right?
That’s why the Rose Bowl is on the table as a potential host of the U.S. team’s tournament opener. It would also be a moment of nostalgia for the site of the 1994 and 1999 title games.
Will it win? Of course.
Venue: Hard Rock Stadium (64,767)
What to know: Miami is the nation’s capital of Spanish-language finance, media, and culture. The Dolphins’ renovations to their stadium in recent years have made it superb, and it has hosted many big soccer games.
Will it win? Another slam dunk.
Venue: Nissan Stadium (69,143)
What to know: That’s the venue as of now. Will it be in 2026? The Titans’ recent move to build a new stadium soon has nearly torpedoed a bid that FIFA officials really liked when they visited. Titans officials told FIFA the new place should be ready by 2026, but you can’t tell FIFA should be.
Will it win? Not if FIFA sticks with 10 cities, or even 11.
Venue: MetLife Stadium (82,500)
What to know: Another easy pick, and a leading candidate to host the final.
Will it win? Obviously.
Venue: Camping World Stadium (60,219)
What to know: Disney World’s hometown was a 1994 host, in part because Miami wasn’t in the running back then. Now it is, and FIFA won’t pick two Florida cities.
Will it win? No, and they surely know it.
Venue: Lincoln Financial Field (69,796)
What to know: The Linc’s pristine grass, the public transit access on Broad Street, and Comcast’s heavyweight backing have helped Philly’s bid do everything right. Now all the city’s blossoming soccer fan base can do is wait.
Will it win? All signs point to yes.
San Francisco Bay Area
Venue: Levi’s Stadium (68,500)
What to know: Although Santa Clara is a hike from San Francisco, there’s enough public transportation to make it work. The stadium is superb, and gets a bonus point for proximity to other West Coast cities.
Will it win? Very likely.
Venue: Lumen Field (69,000)
What to know: “The bluest skies you’ve ever seen are in Seattle,” Perry Como once sang, and so are some of America’s biggest and most passionate soccer crowds. There are few better cities for the sport in this country, and the stadium’s downtown location is perfect.
Will it win? Almost certainly.
Venue: M&T Bank Stadium (71,006)
What to know: The two neighboring cities originally had separate bids. FIFA (and everyone else) dislikes the Commanders’ FedEx Field, and Baltimore wouldn’t have won on its own. So they teamed up, allowing for games on the Inner Harbor and a big fan festival on the National Mall.
Will they win? Very likely.
Venue: Commonwealth Stadium (55,819)
What to know: The word is Edmonton is already out. FIFA would rather have gone to Montreal, but Canada’s best soccer city pulled out over not wanting to spend a gargantuan sum to renovate Olympic Stadium. So Edmonton, a 2015 women’s World Cup host, has stayed alive on paper. Canada’s Sportsnet reported last Thursday that the die had been cast.
Will it win? No, and Kansas City should win because of it.
Venue: BMO Field (30,000)
What to know: Toronto FC’s stadium is too small right now, but it will be expanded to over 40,000 for the World Cup. There’s plenty of room for it, and plenty of money from its owner — the same company that runs the Maple Leafs and Raptors. The rest will be easy.
Will it win? A lock.
Venue: BC Place (54,500)
What to know: Vancouver was out of the race for years, because British Columbia’s provincial legislature refused to provide funding. But even when FIFA said the door was shut, everyone knew it wasn’t really. Concacaf president and FIFA vice president Victor Montagliani is from there, as is Canada’s chief 2026 organizer Peter Montopoli. They always wanted Vancouver in, and a few months ago the right people said yes. The home of the 2015 women’s World Cup final will be a spectacular 2026 venue.
Will it win? Also a lock.
Venue: Estadio Akron (49,850)
What to know: All three Mexican cities are locks.
Will it win? Yes.
Venue: Estadio Azteca (87,523)
What to know: The king of all North American soccer venues will become the first stadium to host three men’s World Cups.
Will it win: Sí.
Venue: Estadio BBVA (53,500)
What to know: A spectacular modern venue, just seven years old, with a spectacular backdrop of nearby mountains.
Will it win: Get to know it when the U.S. women play there in Concacaf’s World Cup and Olympic qualifying tournament next month.
After years of watching the race, here are this writer’s picks for which cities will host games.
In: Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Santa Clara, Seattle, and Washington/Baltimore in the U.S.; Toronto and Vancouver in Canada; Guadalajara, Mexico City and Monterrey in Mexico.
Out: Boston, Cincinnati, Denver, Edmonton, Nashville, and Orlando.