22 cities in total across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico will be pared down to 16, and Atlanta is expected to make the final cut.
Thursday is set to be a big deal in the world of soccer — and for 16 North American cities in particular— as FIFA are set to announce the host cities for the 2026 World Cup during an event in NYC. Atlanta, of course, is in the running, and is widely expected to be one of the cities to make the cut having hosted countless prestigious sporting events in the past.
And a look at the list presents iron-clad locks for some and a little uncertainty for others. Several of the U.S.-based candidates were part of the 1994 World Cup and stand to be among the cities chosen, but what about the Canadian and Mexican bidders? Three cities in each nation are up for hosting, and there are conflicting reports of all 6 bids being successful or 2 in each. We’ll know for sure come Thursday afternoon as FIFA reveals the sites.
In total, 60 matches will be played in the U.S., while Canada and Mexico will each host 10. Here’s a list of every candidate city (click here if you have trouble viewing on a mobile device), along with what you need to know ahead of the event in New York City (5pm ET, FS1/Telemundo Deportes):
- As far as U.S.-based candidate cities, Atlanta, along with Boston, Cincinnati, Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, New York/New Jersey, Orlando, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington/Baltimore are finalists. At least 10 of those are expected to be picked. Boston, DFW, LA, NY/NJ, Orlando, and Washington (as a single-city bid) hosted matches for the 1994 World Cup, the last World Cup held on North American soil.
- According to the official FIFA bid book, Atlanta (Mercedes-Benz Stadium) and DFW (AT&T Stadium) were recommended to host the 2 semifinals, with FIFA citing “geographic location, travel distances, and stadium capacity” as the reason. MetLife Stadium outside of New York was recommended for the final due to the size of the venue, hotel availability, and the region’s status as a major international travel hub. A quick note: Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s gross capacity is presented as 75,000 for the purposes of the bid, but the “forecasted capacity” is set to 65,085, which is the gross capacity less VIP and media seating. Atlanta and DFW were also recommended as potential hosts for the tournament’s International Broadcast Center (DFW hosted it in 1994), while the referee headquarters would be either in Dallas or Houston and either Dallas or NY/NJ hosting the FIFA headquarters during the event.
- For Fan Fest events, the United bid recommended Centennial Olympic Park or Piedmont Park. While Centennial Olympic Park is literally right in front of MBS, Piedmont Park presents much more space, but it’d be a mild surprise for Centennial Olympic Park to not host Atlanta’s Fan Fest.
- Mexico and Canada have 3 candidates each: Mexico City, Monterrey, and Guadalajara, along with Vancouver, Edmonton, and Toronto, respectively. Originally, it was expected all 6 would make the cut, but the latest is that 2 from each country would (leaving 12 U.S. cities as hosts).
So what will FIFA decide? Here’s what I’m thinking. Going off the latest buzz of 2 Canadian and Mexican cities having winning bids: Atlanta, DFW, Houston, LA, Miami, NY/NJ, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Seattle in the U.S. As far as the other 3 U.S. sites, I feel Denver and Kansas City will get chosen, and maybe Nashville. That’s certainly nothing against Cincinnati and the Baltimore/Washington joint bid, although I feel FIFA may be a bit spooked by issues at FedEx Field in recent years; M&T certainly is in better shape to host than FedEx. For Mexico, I think Mexico City and Monterrey will be selected, and for Canada, Toronto and Vancouver (in fact, reports are suggesting this is the case, with the 2 cities set to host 10 combined matches). If all 3 Canadian and Mexican bidders are awarded, then Denver and KC will be scratched.
In any event, plan for World Cup soccer to be played in Atlanta in 4 years.