It has been almost exactly four years since the United States, Canada and Mexico won the right to host the 2026 World Cup. Ever since then, Seattle has been considered one of the favorites to have games. On June 16, we’ll finally find out if we’re selected. The announcement show will start at 2 PM on FS1.
Whether you’ve been following this story all along or are just tuning in, we suspect you have a lot of questions. Let’s see if we can answer some:
Who’s still in the running?
Although there have been some twists and turns along the way, what started as a list of about 70 cities, was eventually pared down to 23 cities and now stands at 22. Three of those cities are in Canada (Edmonton, Toronto and Vancouver), three are in Mexico (Guadalajara, Mexico City and Monterrey) and the other 16 are in the United States. Joining Seattle are Atlanta, Boston, Cincinnati, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, New York/New Jersey, Orlando, Philadelphia, San Francisco Bay Area, and Washington, DC/Baltimore.
What about that list has changed?
Montreal was originally one of the Canadian cities listed and was ultimately replaced by Vancouver, who only recently was officially added. Washington, DC and Baltimore were also originally bidding separately but combined after FedEx Field was deemed insufficient. If that bid is successful, games would be played at Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium while fanfest activities would likely be in DC.
How does Vancouver’s inclusion affect Seattle?
I’ve always thought that having a second city in the Pacific Northwest would be a good thing and recent reporting by Grant Wahl backs up that notion. Logistically, it makes sense a ton of sense since each team will only play two group-stage games and would never have to travel very far. UPDATE: It appears that Edmonton has fallen out of the running, which effectively makes Vancouver a shoo-in. The latest reports suggest they’ll be getting six games.
How good are Seattle’s chances?
Basically, every list created by anyone who seriously follows this stuff has included Seattle as a likely host. This is still FIFA, so anything is possible, but it will be considered a pretty big upset if Seattle isn’t selected.
What makes Seattle’s bid so strong?
The big one is our soccer culture. One only needs to look at the Concacaf Champions League final as evidence. Nearly 69,000 people showed up for that game on a Wednesday night, easily setting a tournament record. And it’s not just fans, either. When Seattle hosted the World Cup delegates earlier this year, there were dozens of reporters on hand. Virtually every TV and radio station in the region, to speak nothing of websites like ours, understands the relevancy of the World Cup. If any city can be expected to draw crowds and media attention for Denmark-Tunisia (to pick a random matchup from the next World Cup), it’s Seattle.
Beyond that, we’ve got a ton going for us from a robust tourist infrastructure (there are nearly 50,000 hotel rooms in the region, with about 15,000 within walking distance of Lumen Field); quickly expanding public transit (you’ll be able to take light rail north to Lynnwood, south to Federal Way and east to Redmond by then); and plentiful training facilities (the Sounders will have just opened their new headquarters at Longacres and there’s already first-rate spots like Virginia Mason Athletic Center, Starfire, the University of Washington and Seattle University).
How many cities are going to be selected?
In recent tournaments, FIFA has usually selected 8-12 cities, depending on a variety of factors (although there were 20 selected when South Korea and Japan shared hosting duties in 2002). But that was also before they expanded the field to 48 teams, which will be the case in 2026. That could leave us with anywhere between 14-20 host cities, with 8-14 of those being in the United States. It would make a certain amount of sense to have 16 cities for 16 groups.
What’s the format of the tournament going to look like?
There will be 48 teams spread out into 16 three-team groups. The teams will play just two group-stage games with the top two teams from each group advancing to the Round of 32. The total number of games being played increases from 64 to 80, but the finalists will still play just seven games over 32 days, the way it is now.
How many games would be in Seattle?
The minimum is probably four, with as many as three in the group stage and as few as one in the knockout round. Most observers seem to think Seattle could potentially be in line to host games as late as the quarterfinals, but probably not any later than that.
What’s the knock against us?
You’ve probably heard that FIFA is demanding that every game be played on a grass surface and Seattle definitely doesn’t have grass. But that’s true for two of Canada’s bids (Vancouver and Edmonton) as well as seven of the other U.S. bid cities. The point being that there are guaranteed to be games played in stadiums that normally feature an artificial surface. All of the potential host venues have agreed to install grass for the World Cup. Only Gillette Stadium has promised to rip up their current field to install permanent grass, while others have offered FIFA assurances that they’ll come up with something acceptable. In any case, the Sea 2026 committee doesn’t seem to think this will be a problem.
Lumen Field is a bit older and smaller than many of the other stadiums in the running. It’s also entirely possible that Seattle city officials aren’t willing to give the same kind of “tax breaks” that others are. Aside from that, I’m honestly not sure what’s not to like.
What are the drawbacks of hosting?
There will be a lot of people here, which will surely lead to some crowding we’re not always accustomed to. And those people could be here for the better part of a month. I imagine that it would be a bad time to urge out-of-town guests to stay in hotels or rentals. Lines at the local coffee shops will probably be longer and getting a reservation at your favorite restaurant will probably be tougher. There’s also a good chance that we’re going to see an increased police presence, which could very well lead to some knock-on effects like homeless sweeps or “petty” crime enforcement. If you’re interested in some of those possibly unintended consequences, this story is really worth a read, if only to raise awareness. I don’t want to get into the good or bad nature of those things, but think it’s important to acknowledge that some people will be adversely affected.
On top of everything, just dealing with FIFA is not great. This is a famously problematic organization and one of the reasons that several cities dropped out of consideration was just a general distaste of dealing with them.
How expensive are tickets going to be?
I was a little surprised to discover that there are actually reasonably affordable tickets available for this year’s World Cup, less than $15 for some group-stage games. I don’t think we’ll get that lucky. When the Copa America Centenario was played here in 2016, the cheapest tickets were closer to $50 and went up dramatically from there. That’s the low end of what I’d expect for this event and won’t be surprised if you’ll be forced to buy multi-game packages that cost similar to what you spend on Sounders season-tickets. Hope I’m wrong!
Are there benefits even if I don’t attend games?
One thing we know will happen if Seattle is selected as a host is that there will be a Fan Fest where fans can watch many of the games. The plan is for that to be on the refurbished waterfront, something that’s currently in the process of being constructed. Aside from that, it will probably be a boon for local businesses. It’s not yet clear how Sounders fans will directly benefit, but I’m holding out hope for this to facilitate some upgrades to Lumen Field like permanent locker rooms for the soccer teams, more digital signage that allows it to feel like a home stadium for tenants other than the Seahawks, and, heck, maybe that grass field will stick around, too. A boy can dream!
Do we want this?
I won’t speak for you and I definitely understand the argument against it, but I do want games. My thinking is that if you’re going to be watching games anyway, may as well have them someplace where you can bask in some of the real benefits, too. I’ve been in love with Seattle ever since I moved here in 2009 and am genuinely excited to share it with the world. Even if I don’t cover the games as a journalist, I think I’ll enthusiastically attend as a fan and am already fantasizing about spending random afternoons with my wife and daughters at the Fan Fest.
Is there somewhere I can watch the announcement in a group?
There is! The local organizing committee is hosting a bunch of watch parties at bars and restaurants all over the region. In Seattle, they’ll be at the George & Dragon in Fremont, Atlantic Crossing in Roosevelt, Taste of the Caribbean in First Hill and Flatstick Pub in South Lake Union. If Seattle is chosen, there’s a good chance there will be an even bigger celebration.