North American World Cup Bid Goes Heavy On NFL Venues; 12 Locations Expected In End
The joint U.S.-Mexico-Canada bid to host the '26 FIFA World Cup yesterday "began to take shape" with the "unveiling of the 44 cities in contention to host at least one of the record 80 matches," according to Brian Straus of SI.com. The bid will "go up against one from Morocco" and a decision "could be made as early as next June." A shortlist of potential venues will be "created, with those cities submitting their final proposals" by January. The North American bid, which will include 20-25 possible venues, is "due to FIFA in March." The United Bid Committee said at least 12 locations could "ultimately serve as official host cities" (SI.com, 8/15). Strauss noted the U.S. has "more than 130 stadiums" with a capacity over 40,000, while Morocco "currently has six.” Soccer America’s Paul Kennedy noted the only U.S. venue on the list at which "soccer has never been played" is Lambeau Field (TWITTER.com, 8/15). ESPN FC's Tom Marshall reported cities hoping to be "selected will have until Sept. 5 to declare their interest." The initial shortlist is "set to be announced in late September." Stadiums of all 32 NFL teams are "on the list" except for the Bills' New Era Field. The plan "calls for the U.S. to host 60 of the 80 games, with 10 each in Mexico and Canada." FIFA "requires a capacity of 80,000 for the opener and final," meaning the only possible sites on the list for those games would be the Inglewood stadium, AT&T Stadium and MetLife Stadium, as well as the "less likely" options of FedExField, EverBank Field and Lambeau Field. Estadio Azteca in Mexico City also "remains a possibility for the opener, though every game from the quarterfinals on will be in the U.S." (ESPNFC.com, 8/15).
MISSING IN ACTION: In Philadelphia, Jonathan Tannenwald noted the "most prominent absence is St. Louis, a longtime soccer hotbed." It chose "not to bid in part because the field isn’t wide enough at the domed stadium that used to house the NFL’s Rams." Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor also "isn’t there, even though America’s largest football stadium has successfully hosted major exhibition games." Field dimensions were the "cause there too: the Big House’s surface is is too short for what’s needed" (PHILLY.com, 8/16).
SOUTHERN COMFORTS: In Atlanta, JuliaKate Culpepper notes Mercedes-Benz Stadium is "one of three stadiums being considered" that hosts both an MLS and NFL team, joining CenturyLink Field and Gillette Stadium (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 8/16). Nashville Sports Council President & CEO Scott Ramsey said of the city bidding for a spot, "This just continues the city's momentum, and soccer has been in the forefront, of that momentum the last couple of years" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 8/16). In New Orleans, Jim Kleinpeter writes one thing working in the city's favor is last year "playing host to the U.S. and China women's soccer exhibition." New Orleans Sports Foundation President & CEO Jay Cicero said, "It's the biggest sporting event in the world. ... We couldn't pass up the opportunity to explore the opportunity to be involved in something as big as this" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 8/16). In West Palm Beach, Hal Habib notes when former Dolphins Owner Joe Robbie "built the stadium that originally bore his name, he hoped to host matches" for the '94 World Cup, but they "instead went to Orlando because the stadium was being used by the Marlins." It "wasn’t immediately known which level of World Cup matches" current team Owner Stephen Ross "will seek." Hard Rock Stadium "faces competition from other Florida facilities" in Raymond James Stadium, Camping World Stadium and EverBank Field (PALM BEACH POST, 8/16).
WE LIKE TO PARTY: PHILLY.com's Tannenwald writes the city's location is a "particular advantage" for traveling fans, as it sits in the middle of the Northeast and a "short flight" from the Midwest. Lincoln Financial Field is "easily accessible by local public transportation and regional highways, and has a well-earned reputation as one of the nation’s top venues for soccer spectacles" (PHILLY.com, 8/16). FC Cincinnati President & GM Jeff Berding said, "We were on top of it to make sure Cincinnati was identified as a city interested in hosting. We've proven the market now. ... You could host a World Cup match in Cincinnati and you're going to get an enormous crowd" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 8/16). Sporting KC President Jake Reid said the club would be “heavily involved” in the bidding process. Reid: "You’ll see cooperation between us, the Chiefs, Kansas, Missouri and a lot of other parties. ... There’s no such thing as a slam dunk. But we’re in the game" (K.C. STAR, 8/16).
TURF MANAGEMENT: In St. Paul, Andy Greder reports one "potential roadblock for U.S. Bank Stadium could be the real grass that would need to be laid in the indoor stadium." Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority Dir of Communications Jennifer Hathaway said of temporary grass being used at the venue for an Int'l Champions Cup match last year, "We were incredibly successful with the firm we brought in (Bush Turf), so that wouldn’t be an issue" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 8/16). In Minneapolis, Megan Ryan notes Minnesota United is "building a soccer-specific, natural-grass stadium" in St. Paul set to open for the '19 MLS season. But with a capacity of about 19,000, it "wouldn’t meet the requirements" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 8/16).
IF YOU BUILD IT....: In Las Vegas, Todd Prince notes the city is listed as a potential host, and it is the "first public acknowledgement that the Raiders are pursuing high-profile events for the stadium scheduled to open" in '20. The new stadium will have a capacity of 65,000 that is "expandable to 72,000 for major events like the World Cup." Las Vegas Stadium Authority Chair Steve Hill noted that the bid’s point of contact has "been with the Raiders" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 8/16). In DC, Steven Goff writes the area would have a "strong case to host" FIFA matches. FedExField is listed as the proposed DC-area stadium, but if the Redskins build a new facility before '26, it would "probably supersede" the current venue (WASHINGTON POST, 8/16).
PROVINCIAL LIFE: SportsBusiness Journal’s Ian Thomas noted two "soccer-specific stadiums" made the list -- BMO Field in Toronto and Saputo Stadium in Montreal -- but "both need to add seats" to reach the 40,000-seat minimum (TWITTER.com, 8/15). CONCACAF President Victor Montagliani said that Vancouver’s potential to be a host city is a "very big deal for his home town" and a "salivating proposition." Montagliani: "It’s an opportunity to put Vancouver back on the international sporting map" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 8/16). In Winnipeg, Paul Friesen writes the city was "noticeably absent" from the list of bid cities. Investors Group Field, home to the CFL Blue Bombers, "helped host" the FIFA Women's World Cup in '15. However, it only holds 33,000. Manitoba Soccer Association Exec Dir Hector Vergara said, "I don't know if there's space to put 40,000 seats in there. But you can imagine the magnitude of the costs to put 7,000 seats in that space. ... There's no sense in Winnipeg getting involved in a bidding process where you have to spend millions of dollars." Friesen writes it "won't be feasible for Calgary, either, where there's talk of replacing" McMahon Stadium with a new home for the CFL Stampeders. It "won't be feasible in Ottawa," where the CFL Redblacks just opened TD Place Stadium, and it "certainly won't be in Regina," where the Saskatchewan Roughriders' 33,500-seat Mosaic Stadium "still has that new-car smell" (WINNIPEG SUN, 8/16).