SEATTLE — Watching the press conference for Seattle’s bid to be one of the 2026 World Cup host cities, what struck me most was how few details were revealed.
While some bid cities were promising to rip up their turf field in order to install grass, coming up with elaborate ways to make a regulation pitch fit over a NFL gridiron or devising detailed transportation plans, Seattle’s bid was more focused on what’s already here.
The region is already deep into a massive expansion of the existing light-rail system that will take passengers south to Federal Way, north to Lynwood and as far east as Redmond by 2026. There are already numerous training facilities perfectly capable of hosting international quality soccer players. Hotel accommodations are plentiful. The Seattle bid also leaned heavily into the idea that no other place in the United States can match the Puget Sound’s passion for soccer, and that winning the right to host the World Cup would be deeply personal.
Sounders majority owner Adrian Hanauer — who is spearheading the bid delegation — said he shared a picture of his 8-year-old self with former NASL legend John Best as a way of driving home that point. Maybe more than any other bid city, the people trying to bring the World Cup here are deeply rooted.
But when it came to things like infrastructure or logistics, there really wasn’t anything newsworthy. While it’s assumed that the Sounders will have either dramatically upgraded Starfire or built a new training facility by 2026, nothing resembling a promise was given. The new waterfront that will likely be the home of a Fan Fest? That’s going to get built with or without the World Cup.
Pressed to explain how Lumen Field would meet FIFA’s demand for a world-class grass pitch, Hanauer essentially said “we’ll figure it out.” If the World Cup comes to Seattle in 2026, there will be a grass pitch that meets FIFA’s exacting standards, Hanauer promised. Reading between the lines, Hanauer seemed confident that it wouldn’t be an obstacle and noted that it was part of the stadium authority’s responsibility to make it happen.
As a journalist looking for something newsy to share, this was a little frustrating. As someone who’s trying to assess how likely FIFA is to choose Seattle, I came away convinced that there are plenty of reasons to be confident.
My read on the press event was that it wasn’t necessarily for the press. The goal wasn’t to get us to write about how great it would be for the World Cup to come here, but to show FIFA officials how relevant soccer is in this market. In that sense, I have to think it was mission accomplished. Every local TV channel was there with cameras and reporters. Seemingly every print and digital outlet was there in force as well.
This was just another data point for those officials. The real work was probably done in the preceding 24 hours when they were wined and dined at Amazon’s Spheres and educated on the region’s strengths at MOHAI, while taking in the Kraken game at Climate Pledge Arena and the Seahawks game at Lumen Field, where they’ll watch the Sounders tonight.
The sense I got was that bid officials felt the tour went about as well as it could and they weren’t about to get bogged down in details. This was a bid that seemed confident in the idea that it had made its case.