NEW YORK (AP) – As FIFA prepares to announce the 2026 World Cup sites yesterday – and make high-profile cuts – Alan Rothenberg thought back to when stadiums were picked for the 1994 tournament he headed in the United States (US).
“They gave the rights to the host country, and the host country basically ran the whole thing,” he said. “Here, everything is done in-house by FIFA. So it’s been a really long and arduous process. The terms have been incredibly difficult for cities to cope with.”
Seventeen stadiums in 16 areas remained in contention to be among 10-12 selected from the US for the tournament, which will be co-hosted with Mexico and Canada. The US will host 60 of the 80 games under FIFA’s plan, including all from the quarterfinals on, and there was little doubt over the venues for 10 games each in the other nations.
Last time, the nine US stadiums were announced during a Waldorf-Astoria news conference 816 days before the opener. This time, the decisions will be revealed by FIFA in a Fox television studio 1,456 days before the likely start.
“This country has even more than 17 cities capable of hosting the World Cup, and it will be a pity for those that miss out,” said Telemundo’s Andrés Cantor, who has broadcast the tournament since 1990 and will co-host the announcement. “But I don’t think it’s going to take away from the desire of the football fan to attend the game, wherever their country lands in 2026.”
Rothenberg said the decision remained uncertain in the final week between SoFi, which may need pricey renovations to create a wider field, and the Rose Bowl.
“Even to this moment, there’s calls going on all day long trying to sort it out,” he said. “There will be discussions between the LA host committee and FIFA right up almost to the moment of the announcement. The costs of LA are a huge part of the difficulty.”
Just two of the contending stadiums hosted games in 1994, the Rose Bowl joined by Orlando. Dozens of training complexes have been built for MLS teams, creating a far better infrastructure than at the first World Cup in the US, when Italy worked out at The Pingry School in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, and the US practiced ahead of its opener on a wind-swept field at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan.
“It’s completely different from the standpoint that in a lot of these cities there’s a base of fans that have been sort of built up because of MLS,” said Tony Meola, the US starting goalkeeper at that ‘94 Cup.
“We know Los Angeles and New York and Miami always had football fans, and they weren’t necessarily American fans, but they were fans of some teams around the world. I think we’ve got just a little bit more of a fever for the game. From a fan’s perspective, the infrastructure in the cities are so much more developed. And tickets will never be a problem in our country if we host the World Cup every four years.”