FIFA set to define US venues for 2026 World Cup

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As FIFA prepares to announce the venues for the 2026 World Cup on Thursday, ruling out major cities — Alan Rothenberg recalled the process of selecting the stadiums for the 1994 tournament in the United States that he orchestrated.

“They gave the rights to the host country, and the host basically took care of everything,” he said. “Here, everything is run by FIFA. It has been a long and arduous process. The requirements have been really difficult for the cities”.

A total of 17 stadiums in 16 metropolitan areas are bidding to be on the final list of between 10 and 12 that will stage the games in the United States for the first World Cup with 48 teams, and that will have Mexico and Canada as co-hosts.

The United States will host 60 of the 80 games, according to FIFA’s plan, including all games from the quarterfinals.

For 1994, the announcement of the nine stadiums in the United States was made at a press conference at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, 816 days from the opening game. This time, the decisions will be revealed by FIFA in a studio on the Fox network 1,456 days in advance.

When evaluating the candidate cities, several categories can be identified:

—Fixed: AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and Met Life in East Rutherford, New Jersey, as well as SoFi in Inglewood or the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.

—Almost: Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta; the M&T Bank in Baltimore; the Gillette in Foxborough, Mass.; the NRG in Houston; the Arrowhead in Kansas City, Missouri; the Hard Rock in Miami Gardens, Florida; the Nissan in Nashville, Tennessee; Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia; Levi’s in Santa Clara, California; and Lumen Field in Seattle.

—Probably not: Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati; Empower Field Mile High in Denver; and Camping World in Orlando, Florida.

“This country has more than 17 cities capable of hosting the World Cup, and it will be sad for those that will be ruled out,” said Andrés Cantor, the Telemundo commentator who has broadcast each tournament since 1990 and will participate in the announcement of the venues. “But I don’t think it takes anything away from the fan’s fervor to go to games, no matter where his country plays in 2026.”

There is no mystery about the venues in Mexico and Canada, with 10 games in each country.

The Mexicans proposed as venues the BBVA stadiums in Monterrey, in the north of the country; the Akron of Guadalajara, in the west; and the iconic Azteca in Mexico City, located downtown. The three cities received matches in the World Cups previously held in the country, although the Monterrey and Guadalajara stadiums are recently created.

The Azteca in the capital of Mexico was the scene of the 1970 and 1986 finals, and will become the first stadium with three World Cups.

“I have had the opportunity to be in other stadiums, yes they can be more modern, more beautiful, but they lose that soul, that heart and that history,” said Emilio Azcarraga, the owner of Televisa, the Mexican television network that owns the Azteca stadium. “And the stadium for 2026 is going to be, not just the most functional stadium, but the stadium that will have the most heart and soul.”

Toronto’s BMO Field and Vancouver’s BC Place are Canada’s favorite venues. Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton would not be considered.

Rothenberg says that uncertainty has prevailed until the last week in the bid between SoFi, which would require a costly renovation to expand the dimensions of the court, and the Rose Bowl.

“Right now the phone inquiries don’t stop,” he said on Tuesday. “The Los Angeles local committee will be negotiating with FIFA until the very moment of the announcement. The cost in Los Angeles represents the most difficult aspect.

Only two of the contenders were venues in 1994: the Rose Bowl and Orland. MLS clubs have built world-class sports cities, thus having an infrastructure superior to that of the first World Cup in the United States, when Italy trained at Pingry, a high school in Basking Ridge, New Jersey.

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