By Judith Gicobi
On Thursday, soccer fans in Canada, Mexico, and the United States will find out if their cities were selected to host the 48-team competition, officially beginning the countdown to the 2026 World Cup.
FIFA will reveal the host cities four years after selecting the tri-nation North American bid, following a protracted and secretive process.
According to FIFA, there are still 22 host cities up for selection this week. Many predict that the United States will select 10 of its contenders, with Vancouver, Edmonton, and Toronto still in the running to the north.
Three prospective cities—Guadalajara, Mexico City, and Monterrey—are all but guaranteed a spot in Mexico, where soccer is less a sport than a religion.
Before Thursday’s media extravaganza in New York City, anything is possible, of course.
“Some of the cities understood probably from the beginning they were a longer shot than others … Five or six cities, almost anybody in the world would say, ‘Well, clearly they’re part of the package’,” former U.S. Soccer President Alan Rothenberg, now chairman of Playfly Premier Partnerships, told Reuters.
“So the scramble in many ways is for the other slots.”
Widely regarded as an obvious option are Los Angeles, with its flashy new $5.5 billion SoFi Stadium, and global powerhouse New York, whose joint bid with New Jersey is based on the 82,500-seat MetLife Stadium.
Other hopefuls include Boston, Dallas, San Francisco, Orlando, and Washington, D.C., which united its bid with Baltimore this year. All of these cities previously hosted the World Cup in 1994.
For the cities that submitted bids, there could be a financial windfall: The event could produce more than $5 billion in economic activity for North America, according to a 2018 U.S. Soccer report.
The honor of having contributed to North American soccer history is also on the table. The United States saw soccer’s popularity soar after the 1994 World Cup that Major League Soccer (MLS) debuted its first season two years later.