After years of speculation as to which cities and stadia would be selected to host games during the 2026 FIFA World Cup, FIFA finally unveiled the list to the world on June 16. Much was debated about the merits of different cities and why City A should host over City B or City C, but, thankfully, all the discourse can be put to rest as we now have our answers.
For the first time since 1994, North America will host the world’s biggest sporting event. In total, 11 cities in the U.S. were selected, while three were selected in Mexico and two were selected in Canada.
Back in September of 2021, we set out to predict where FIFA may ultimately land for U.S. cities and correctly predicted eight of the 11 cities. We incorrectly anticipated inclusion of a new, hot market like Nashville, a mountain region city like Denver, and the importance of hosting games in the nation’s capital.
A lot has changed since the 1994 FIFA World Cup
Before we look ahead at the selected hosts, the most obvious place to start is 1994. The last time North America hosted the FIFA World Cup, there were nine total markets, all of which were in the U.S. Fast forward to 2026 and the holdovers are Los Angeles, the Bay Area, New York/New Jersey, Dallas, and Boston, while Detroit, Chicago, Orlando, and Washington, D.C. will not return.
The takeaway is that things are considerably different some 30 years later and, while that’s obvious, the reality is there are so many legitimate soccer markets in the U.S. now that it’s not a market-by-market story, it’s a America-is-a-soccer-nation story.
When you think about how much has changed, soccer-wise, in this country since 1994, perhaps the word most appropriate is transformative. Simply put, the difference is night and day. Upwards of 25 or more markets in the U.S. could lay claim to being adequate hosts based on existing infrastructure alone. This was true in 1994, as well.
But what’s different now is that soccer not only arrived, but has thrived in almost every pocket of the U.S. over the past 30 years. The fact that markets like Orlando, Phoenix, San Diego, Minneapolis – and the list goes on – aren’t included as hosts tells us that the U.S. has an abundance of soccer-loving hosts. Frankly, that’s a great problem to have.
This is what makes the 2026 FIFA World Cup such an intriguing thing as a fan – first and foremost – but also as a marketer. If 1994 was the precipice for change on which a foundation could be built, 2026 is the announced arrival to the world with the foundation now supporting a mega mansion ripe with opportunity.
Analyzing the 2026 FIFA World Cup hosts
Given the list of cities remaining in the running for selection, we think FIFA made solid choices. Every pocket of the country, save for maybe the mountainous west, is represented. The diversity of the U.S. will be on full display, which is cause for celebration for an event like the FIFA World Cup.
Boston, New York/New Jersey, Philadelphia
The northeast region, home to roughly 58 million people, is well-represented and provides fans the best regional pocket of markets with limited travel. Dallas and Houston, as well as Seattle and Vancouver provide similar opportunity, but no where else are there three host cities within a five-hour drive of each other. Their inclusion is more than just a proximity story, however. New York/New Jersey, Boston, and Philadelphia are home to a diverse mix of ethnic enclaves and are often featured high in lists of markets with the highest ratings for soccer broadcasts.
While Nashville is newer on the scene in terms of “sexiness,” the infrastructure built and fandom displayed in Atlanta illustrate why the market’s inclusion is a no-brainer. Atlanta is also a major contributor to the rise in soccer fandom among black/African-American fans, one of the more interesting things to keep an eye on leading up to 2026. The location of knockout stage games won’t be decided anytime soon, but we expect Atlanta to play a major role in the hosting of late-round games.
Miami’s inclusion was also almost a foregone conclusion. The truly international city is the vacation destination for so many of the world’s best players and the Hispanic and Latin influence is unmatched. Almost 57% of Miami residents are foreign-born (U.S. average is 13%) and roughly 70% of residents are Hispanic or Latino with large populations of Cubans, Colombians, Brazilians, Venezuelans, and more.
Dallas and Houston have played host to major sporting events and have all the infrastructure necessary to add 2026 FIFA World Cup host to their portfolio. Texas is one of the major drivers of soccer interest in the U.S. thanks, in large part, to its Hispanic influence. The state has an estimated 250,000 youth soccer players, which, based on volume alone, is only outpaced by California. We fully expect Dallas to host a late-stage knockout round game, as well.
Kansas City’s inclusion is slightly surprising given its overall metro population relative to the other host cities. 2.2 million residents make it the 31st most-populated metro area in the country. All other hosts are 15th (Seattle – 4 million) or higher. Despite this, Kansas City residents have shown time and time again their love for soccer, especially the U.S. National Team. Whether it was a factor in its inclusion or not we don’t know, but Kansas City will be the lone midwest representative in 2026.
Los Angeles, Bay Area
There’s not much to say about Los Angeles and the Bay Area that hasn’t already been said. California is just as, if not more important, to the overall soccer story in the U.S. as Texas, Florida, and the northeast region. While it wasn’t chosen to host games in 2026, the Rose Bowl held games in every stage but one of the 1994 FIFA World Cup, including a semi-final, the third-place game, and the final. Stanford Stadium, the Bay Area stadium du jour in 1994, hosted games through the quarterfinal round.
The Pacific Northwest was owed a place among the final 11 U.S. hosts. When someone eventually writes a look back at the soccer popularity explosion from the 2010s through the 2020s, a large portion of the book must be devoted to the influence of Seattle and Portland. For more than a decade now, both markets have illustrated their value to the American soccer culture and we can’t wait to see how the region responds to its hosting duties.
Full list of 2026 FIFA World Cup hosts
Of course the 2026 story isn’t just an American one, despite the U.S. hosting 60 of the 80 tournament games. In Canada, the aforementioned Vancouver will form a nice regional pairing with Seattle and is a worthy host alongside Toronto.
In Mexico, Estadio Azteca was a no-brainer inclusion in the country’s capital, home to roughly 9 million people. Guadalajara and Monterrey are also great selections. If you like views, the one at Monterrey’s Estadio BBVA Bancomer is arguably second to none.