By Senji Torrey
Public Relations Manager
Though the 2022 World Cup is still a year away, FIFA has already begun the process of planning for the 2026 World Cup, which will take place in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. There are still five years until the event, but with only 17 sites shared between all three countries, there is already much at stake for a country known for football, not football.
In an effort to churn up support to bring the tournament to Silicon Valley, soccer fans from all over the region came to Levi’s Stadium to welcome the 17 FIFA delegates. However, low attendance at the event discredited the well-meaning effort, reflecting poorly on the city and revealing the unsettlingly dilapidated state of soccer in the Bay Area. This is all to say that despite the potential benefits of the World Cup touching down in The Bay, the initial lack of enthusiasm for the event will surely result in an increasingly slim likelihood of this prospect becoming reality.
Other than Santa Clara, 17 other U.S. cities are currently vying for the attention and backing of their own stadiums. These regions can be split up into three categories — viable, possible, and doubtful — based on many factors, including field size, stadium capacity, city life, and much more. For better or worse, Levi’s falls into the “possible” category.
For one, the venue is not exactly practical. The American football configuration of the field makes it unsuitably narrow; even the playing surface itself has been criticized for being inadequate for the professional level. The Bay Area FIFA commission has been silent on these concerns, whereas both Washington and Cincinnati, who face the same sizing problems, have pledged to remove seating to enlarge their field to accommodate for the beautiful game. On the bright side, the 49ers’ venue is newer than most of the other candidates, and the 68,500 person capacity of the stadium exceeds the ideal number handily.
Of the 17 other places, the most viable and appealing of the options are in America’s landmark cities: New York, Los Angeles, and Miami. MetLife Stadium will represent NY at the table, while Hard Rock Stadium — which hosted the Super Bowl in 2020 — is Miami’s field of choice. LA has thrown two sites into the mix, the Rose Bowl and SoFi Stadium, which directly contrast each other; while the Rose Bowl holds historical significance as the site of the 1994 World Cup Finals, the newly-built SoFi Stadium offers contemporary amenities that no other arena in the world can provide.
Outside of the U.S., Canada and Mexico have been working on potential grounds for games to be played. Canada, which was allocated three sites, saw Montreal drop out due to justified financial concerns; most host countries do not benefit in aggregate once the dust settles. Vancouver, which is currently barred by the British Columbia government, may be given a seat at the table if the BC government is willing to allow the city to host, which is becoming more and more likely.
This prospective admittance will likely benefit neighboring Seattle, which has a vibrant soccer culture, but lacks most everywhere else. Mexico seems to have narrowed down their city candidates. Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Monterrey are the three selected regions for the Central American country, and it seems like that will not be changing.
Whether or not Levi’s Stadium is selected as a venue for the 2026 World Cup is still in the air. Ultimately, it will come down to what FIFA values: hard logistics and money or culture and sheer love of the game.
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