Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Philadelphia preparing bid to host 2026 World Cup matches

The city hopes to rely on history and diversity to distinguish itself from the pack of cities competing to host the global event.

Mayor Jim Kenney (right) talks to youngsters at the Monday presentation.
Mayor Jim Kenney (right) talks to youngsters at the Monday presentation.Read moreJESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer

With a press conference Monday morning at Lincoln Financial Field, Mayor Jim Kenney led a presentation of Philadelphia’s intentions to serve as a host city for the 2026 World Cup.

Philadelphia was selected last year as one of 23 prospective host cities. Monday’s announcement, which identified Philadelphia as “America’s Host City,” comes a year after FIFA’s June 2018 decision to award the hosting responsibilities to Canada, Mexico, and the United States.

The presentation focused on Philadelphia’s recent hosting successes, such as the 2017 NFL draft, 2016 Democratic National Convention, and the 2015 Papal visit, but Kenney also looked at the city’s future hosting commitments as a sign that it can handle the responsibility.

“2026 will be a great year for our city,” he said. “As the birthplace of our nation, Philadelphia will be highlighted during our country’s 250th-anniversary celebration, and we will host the PGA Championship and the Major League Baseball All-Star Game.”

In May, FIFA stopped its consideration of expanding the 2022 World Cup in Qatar from 32 teams to 48. Instead, the 2026 World Cup will be the first since France in 1998 to feature an expansion. The city hopes that the expansion not only will attract a greater and more diverse population to the World Cup, but also that it will engage and unify those who already call Philadelphia home.

The Philadelphia International Unity Cup, a soccer tournament that Kenney helped to begin in 2016, is an early step toward growing that engagement. The Unity Cup, which “unites the city’s neighborhoods and celebrates its diverse immigrant communities through soccer,” had several representatives from neighborhood and community teams in attendance. Kenney counted the city’s diversity as being among its greatest advantages in compiling a convincing bid.

“We’ve seen how [the Unity Cup] has already brought different neighborhoods and communities together through soccer, and it’s something that we’re incredibly proud of,” Kenney said. “In a time of hateful rhetoric against our immigrant communities, we are especially proud to be a city that opens its arms to people all around the world.”

Along with various corporate and community representatives, Kenney introduced Comcast senior executive vice president and chief diversity officer David L. Cohen as the chairman of the city’s Bid Committee, which is being formed. Cohen joked that, despite his lack of athletic prowess, he couldn’t turn down the opportunity when Kenney presented it to him.

“I’ll sign up for anything to advance the interest of our city, and that’s what hosting the 2026 World Cup is going to do,” Cohen said. “The World Cup, like the Olympics, is about coming together as a global community around sport, including immigrant communities and multiple nations around the world.”

While he described Philadelphia as a city whose hosting capabilities have been doubted in the past, Cohen expressed confidence not only that Philadelphia would secure a hosting spot, but also that the city would thrive in the spotlight of the World Cup.

“We are a city that loves big events,” he said. “We thrive on them, we know how to execute them, and we give all of our visitors — players, press, visitors — a fantastic experience in this city, and that is what our sales pitch is going to be, plain and simple.”

FIFA expects the list of prospective host cities to be cut to 16 by 2021.