SEATTLE – A global spotlight will shine on Seattle again as the city learned Thursday it was selected to host FIFA men’s World Cup matches in 2026.
Soccer’s governing body made the announcement during a live broadcast from New York City. Seattle is one of 11 U.S. cities and 16 total that will be venues for the revamped 48-team tournament also taking place in Canada and Mexico.
Seattle is linked with Vancouver, B.C., as the only host cities in the Pacific Northwest. More details about the number of games and stage of the tournament will be released later, but it’s likely the Northwest will be the site of two sets of group games with a possibility of one or two knockout-round games, according to the initial North America bid committee presentation.
Having three countries host the tournament is a first for FIFA. The event, which attracts billions globally, will run the summer of 2026 with the final slated for July 12.
The upcoming 2022 men’s World Cup in Qatar was shifted to November because of the scorching temperatures in the country during the summer months.
FIFA’s selection committee formally visited Seattle last fall to evaluate its potential as a host city. A bid committee dubbed SEA 2026 pitched the region and its goal to ensure its site is inclusive whether that be accessibility, sustainability or humanitarian.
The Sounders drew the selection committee back to the city in May for the CONCACAF Champions League final, then the biggest soccer event held at Lumen Field. More than 68,000 people – including FIFA president Gianni Infantino – were in attendance for the club’s eventual 3-0 win against Liga MX side Pumas UNAM.
Highlights of SEA 2026’s vision still call for imagination. The Sounders announced plans for their first headquarters at Longacres in Renton that most recently was office space for Boeing Commercial Airplanes. While the Sounders will retain the original building structure, land will need to be cleared to build four fields, two with natural grass, with an expected unveiling in January 2024.
FIFA also requires grass for tournament matches. When the Washington Public Stadium Authority Bill (known as Referendum 48) passed in 1997 to build what is now Lumen, there was a provision that grass be installed. The Sounders play on turf, but the grounds were fitted for grass for the Copa America in 2016 and FIFA was assured the same would happened for World Cup matches.
Seattle was snubbed when the World Cup was last held in the U.S. in 1994. The selection for 2026 will be the biggest sporting event Seattle has hosted.
Previous showcases had national appeal like Seattle hosting five NCAA men’s Final Fours, the first in 1949. The NBA (1987) and WNBA (2017) held their respective All-Star Games in the city while the Special Olympics USA Games took over Seattle in 2018. Regionally, the 1998 PGA Championship was at the Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish, the 2002 NEC World Championship at Sahalee and the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay at University Place.
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