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North America’s winning bid means Seattle may host some 2026 World Cup matches

UPDATED: Wed., June 13, 2018, 5:42 p.m.

In this June 16, 2016, file photo, Michael Erhart and his daughter Alison, from Knoxville, Tennessee, wait for a Copa America Centenario quarterfinal soccer match between Ecuador and United States  at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. (Elaine Thompson / AP)
In this June 16, 2016, file photo, Michael Erhart and his daughter Alison, from Knoxville, Tennessee, wait for a Copa America Centenario quarterfinal soccer match between Ecuador and United States at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. (Elaine Thompson / AP)

Despite many worrisome events that could have derailed its bid, our continent will indeed host the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

The United States, Mexico and Canada emerged triumphant over Morocco by a vote of 134-65, with one country voting for neither option. That means Seattle may get to host some of the matches, because it’s one of the 23 cities that was included in the bid.

FIFA is expected to narrow that list to 16 cities when it makes its final selections in 2020 or 2021, according to U.S. Soccer. There will be a press conference in Pioneer Square Wednesday afternoon to discuss the result and what it means for soccer in Seattle.

King County Executive Dow Constantine said the city will push forward with its efforts to be selected as a host city.

“I, along with many others, will strongly make the case that our metropolitan region has the world-class venues, transit infrastructure, accommodations, and passionate soccer community to make this a success,” he said in a text message. “Generations of homegrown fans, and enthusiasts from across the globe, are eager for our once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to welcome the world’s game in 2026.”

That stands in contrast with cities that withdrew their bids ahead of the vote, such as Chicago, which hosted the opening game of the 1994 World Cup. In March, Chicago dropped out of contention, citing “uncertainty for taxpayers, coupled with FIFA’s inflexibility and unwillingness to negotiate,” the Chicago Tribune reported, citing a statement from Matthew McGrath, a spokesman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The artificial-turf surface at CenturyLink Field would have to be replaced with natural grass to meet FIFA standards.

Soccer has made major strides since the U.S. last hosted the World Cup in 1994, with the formation of Major League Soccer. Winning the bid had initially seemed a fait accompli until the election of President Donald Trump and the arrests in this country of numerous FIFA officials on corruption charges.

The tournament 24 years ago set an attendance record of 3.6 million over 52 matches that stands. With 80 matches slated for 2026, the majority of them in this country, the lure of a North American bid proved too hard for FIFA to withstand. This continent also has a huge infrastructure advantage over Morocco, as well as an edge in security concerns.

The U.S. will host 60 of the 80 matches. Mexico and Canada will host 10 games apiece.


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