A key figure in FIFA has given the clearest indication so far as to when host cities for the 2026 FIFA World Cup will be announced while hinting the number of cities to host games may not be as firm as previously thought.
FIFA Chief Competitions and Events Officer Colin Smith, while at a Leaders Meet event last week, said 2026 host cities will be decided “probably in April.” Smith, during an appearance with FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Chief Executive Officer Nasser Al-Khater, also said “there’s no finite number as to how many (cities) we’ll decide. In the region of 16 is what was originally proposed.”
FIFA previously said an announcement on 2026 hosts would be in the first or second quarter of 2022 with a presumed 16 sites spread across North America — 10 cities in the U.S. along with three cities in Canada and three cities in Mexico. Sixty games are to be played in the United States, including all matches from the quarterfinals to the final. Canada and Mexico are to host 10 early-round games apiece in what will be the first World Cup to feature 48 teams.
While the 2026 plan was to have three Canadian host cities, Montreal has since withdrawn from the process, leaving Edmonton and Toronto. FIFA has not said what will happen to the selection process.
FIFA’s site inspection team recently finished its final round of visits of prospective 2026 hosts. The initial tour from September 15–23 was to Boston, Nashville, Atlanta, Orlando, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, New York/New Jersey, Philadelphia and Miami. The second round was October 21–November 1 with visits to Kansas City, Cincinnati, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Monterrey, San Francisco and Seattle. The final round of visits concluded with stops in Edmonton, Mexico City, Guadalajara, Toronto and Los Angeles, which has SoFi Stadium and the Rose Bowl as potential venues.
“We’re going from the smallest footprint (to host a World Cup) to the biggest by far,” Smith said, with the 2022 World Cup in Qatar scheduled for eight stadiums within a 50-mile radius. “That brings in challenges between obviously teams travel, fans travel, (and) we need to make sure teams aren’t criss-crossing the country unnecessarily … we’ve got altitude in some venues if they’re chosen, we’ve got electrical roofs in some (venues), roofs in some, non-roofs in others. They’re always challenges; it’s just different challenges.”