NEW YORK, June 14 (Reuters) – The countdown to World Cup 2026 kicks off in earnest on Thursday, as soccer fans across Canada, Mexico and the United States learn whether their cities made the coveted cut to host the 48-team tournament.
Four years after FIFA selected the tri-country North American bid, world football’s governing body will announce the host cities after a lengthy process shrouded in mystery.
With 22 host cities still in the running this week, according to FIFA, many expect the United States to see 10 of its candidates chosen with Vancouver, Edmonton and Toronto in contention to the north.
In Mexico, where soccer is less a sport than a religion, three candidate cities – Guadalajara, Mexico City and Monterrey – are all but assured the gig.
Of course, anything can happen ahead of Thursday’s media spectacle in New York City.
“Some of the cities understood probably from the beginning they were a longer shot than others … Five or six cities, almost anybody in the world would say, ‘Well, clearly they’re part of the package’,” former U.S. Soccer President Alan Rothenberg, now chairman of Playfly Premier Partnerships, told Reuters.
“So the scramble in many ways is for the other slots.”
Los Angeles, with its glitzy new $5.5 billion SoFi Stadium is widely considered an obvious candidate, as is global hub New York, whose joint bid with New Jersey is anchored on the 82,500-capacity MetLife Stadium.
Other contenders include former 1994 World Cup host cities Boston, Dallas, San Francisco, Orlando and Washington, D.C., which combined its bid with Baltimore this year.
“There’s an awful lot of pent-up excitement because then we start the four year sprint to the (games),” said Rothenberg, who served as CEO of the 1994 World Cup.