NOTEW YORK (AP) — The 16 cities in the inaugural World Cup across three nations have been revealed, and FIFA President Gianni Infantino has made a bold statement summarizing the goal for the 2026 tournament, which will be played in largely in the United States.
“By 2026, futbol – football – will be the No. 1 sport in this country,” he proclaimed.
About four years before the football showcase arrived in the United States, Mexico and Canada, there were already winners and losers on Thursday: Atlanta, Houston, Miami, Philadelphia, Seattle and Kansas City, Missouri, have were chosen after failing to host the 1994 tournament.
Baltimore, Cincinnati, Denver, Nashville, Tennessee and Orlando, Florida missed the cut.
Arlington, Texas; East Rutherford, New Jersey; Foxborough, Massachusetts, and Inglewood and Santa Clara, California, were the remaining areas of the 1994 tournament that boosted American football awareness.
Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca, which hosted the 1970 and 1986 finals and would become the first stadium for three World Cups, was selected along with Estadio Akron in Guadalajara and Estadio BBVA in Monterrey.
BMO Field in Toronto and BC Place in Vancouver, British Columbia were chosen while Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, Alberta was dropped.
“History is always the one that isn’t chosen,” said US Soccer Federation President Cindy Parlow Cone.
Infantino’s goal of reaching the pinnacle of American sports appears to be quite ambitious. The NFL averaged 17.1 million TV and digital viewers during its 2021 season, while the 2018 World Cup averaged 5.04 million US viewers in English and Spanish.
“I know it was giggles and laughter,” Canadian Soccer Association president Victor Montagliani said of the reaction to Infantino. “He wasn’t kidding.”
The 1994 tournament set records with a total attendance of 3.59 million and an average of 68,991. The capacities of the 11 US stadiums for 2026 are all 60,000 and above.
“Will be much, much, much bigger,” Infantino said. “I think this part of the world doesn’t realize what’s going to happen here in 2026. These three countries will be upside down. The world will invade Canada, Mexico and the United States.
The bid plan called for 60 games in the United States, including all from the quarterfinals, and 10 each in Mexico and Canada.
Specific venues for each round will be announced later, and Infantino said global TV hours were a factor for the final, making Eastern and Central time zones more likely. FIFA has gradually moved back the kick-off time for the final from 3:30 p.m. EDT to 10 a.m. EDT for this year’s tournament, which is 10 p.m. in Beijing.
America’s selections did not include any of the nine stadiums used in the 1994 World Cup. The Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, and Camping World Stadium in Orlando were the only ones left in contention, and they were among the sites abandoned during of the final round.
New stadiums were selected from five areas used in 1994. AT&T Stadium in Texas replaced the Cotton Bowl in Dallas; Inglewood’s SoFi Stadium took over from Pasadena’s Rose Bowl; and Levi’s Stadium instead of Stanford Stadium.
Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, and Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Masschusetts, replaced the demolished stadiums that were adjacent, Giants Stadium and Foxboro Stadium.
Orlando’s Camping World was abandoned among existing venues in 1994. The Detroit area, where the former Pontiac Silverdome hosted games, was cut in 2018, and Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium was abandoned after abandonment from FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland. RFK Stadium in Washington was used in 1994.
Chicago, which hosted the 1994 opener at Solider Field, declined to bid, citing FIFA’s economic demands.
Unlike the site’s 1992 announcement at a press conference, the 2026 announcement was made on a TV broadcast from Fox’s studio in Manhattan.
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Ronald Blum, The Associated Press