The world’s biggest sporting event is coming to Seattle. Long considered a favorite to be chosen as one of the host cities for the 2026 Men’s World Cup, FIFA made it official on Thursday, naming Seattle along with 15 other cities in Canada, Mexico and the United States. The Seattle 2026 organizing committee also announced plans for a public celebration from 5-8 PM today at Pier 62.
“This is perhaps the biggest day for the sport of soccer in the history of our region,” SEA 2026 Chair and Seattle Sounders FC Owner Adrian Hanauer said in a press release. “To be awarded the FIFA World Cup is not only momentous for the city of Seattle, but for all of Washington State and the Pacific Northwest.”
Joining Seattle in the Western Region are Vancouver, B.C.; San Francisco Bay Area; Los Angeles; Guadalajara, Mexico. The Central Region is made up of Kansas City; Dallas; Atlanta; Houston; Monterrey, Mexico; and Mexico City. The Eastern Region will be made up of Toronto; Boston; Philadelphia; Miami; and New York/New Jersey.
It is expected that Seattle will get 4-6 games, which will likely include at least three group-stage games and one knockout stage game. Vancouver will reportedly receive six games, likely setting up a scenario where one or two groups will play all their games in the Pacific Northwest.
The 2026 tournament will be largest to date with 48 teams. Those teams will be broken into 16 three-team groups with the top two teams from each advancing to a Round of 32. That format will mean there are 80 total games, up from 62 in this year’s edition. About 60 of those games — including the final — are expected to be played in the United States.
Seattle’s place in the tournament is the culmination of work that effectively started in 1997 when Washington voters approved the funding that largely paid for what would eventually become Lumen Field. A key component of the coalition to push the vote across the line by fewer than 40,000 votes was soccer fans, who were given assurances that the stadium authority would do everything within its power to ensure that it could host both MLS and international soccer matches. That included building the stadium with a soccer configuration in mind, and also guarantees that grass would be installed if necessary.
While temporary sod has been laid over the FieldTurf at Lumen Field numerous times over the years, the World Cup will require something more permanent. Details of those plans have not yet been released, but other stadiums had promised to completely replace their artificial surfaces in order to appease FIFA.
There will be plenty of other activities surrounding the World Cup outside of games, most notable a FanFest that will serve to effectively link Lumen Field to the waterfront. Many of the games will be shown on a big screen at the waterfront, serving as a gathering place for fans even without tickets.