Baltimore as FIFA 2026 Host City?


Baltimore and Washington to join hands for WC bid Image: Maryland Stadium Authority

Baltimore-Maryland 2026 World Cup President Terry Hasseltine has said his group would be receptive to a joint bid with Washington (US) if approached by FIFA and U.S. Soccer about the idea, but he stresses that his group has not heard anything from either party about that and is still focused on Baltimore’s individual bid to bring matches to ‘Charm City’.

The ‘PRESSBOX’ stated that Baltimore and Washington have made both made bids to host World Cup matches when the prestigious tournament comes to North America in 2026. However, FIFA has concerns about the 67,717-capacity FedExField near Washington, D.C., as a match venue and thus could opt to play matches at the 71,008-capacity M&T Bank Stadium in nearby Baltimore. Capital cities of countries have typically hosted matches during World Cup play, but D.C. may have to settle for other events, like watch parties.

The 2026 FIFA World Cup™ will be the 23rd FIFA World Cup™, the quadrennial international men’s soccer/football championship contested by the national teams of the member-associations of FIFA. The tournament will be jointly hosted by 16 Cities in three North American countries. Sixty matches, including the quarterfinals, semi-finals, and the final, will be hosted by the United States while neighboring Canada and Mexico will each host 10 matches. The tournament will be the first hosted by three nations. This tournament will be the first to include 48 teams, expanded from 32.

Stated Hasseltine, also the Maryland Sports Commission Executive Director, “Right now, U.S. Soccer and FIFA have asked [Baltimore and Washington] to remain two independent bidding entities. And until FIFA and/or U.S. Soccer come to us and say, ‘Hey, let’s follow this idea further to ensure that the North American bid has the best venues and the best people at play, to ensure that we host the best World Cup in 2026 in North America,’ we’re ready to listen. We’ve been receptive to everything’s FIFA asked us to do. We have been receptive to U.S. Soccer and the things that they’ve asked us to do throughout this entire process.”

FIFA officials visited Baltimore in September 2021, touring the M&T Bank Stadium and the rest of the City the following day. Baltimore is one of 17 US Cities bidding for matches, and FIFA will select 10 or 11. Hasseltine expects FIFA to announce host Cities by early May this year.

The ‘PRESSBOX’ further stated that the M&T Bank Stadium is the foundation of Baltimore’s bid, but Hasseltine is proud of the entire package the City offers, including possible training sites and FanFest locations. If chosen, Baltimore would host five to seven matches, which Hasseltine likened to “hosting five to seven Super Bowls in a two-week period of time”, a major boon to hotels, restaurants and other businesses in the City.

Hasseltine is confident about Baltimore’s chances, regardless of the Washington situation – “We’ve put a lot of hard work and a lot energy and blood, sweat and tears into this thing and we feel very confident on our own merit. But we also would be receptive if U.S. Soccer or FIFA tells us that we need to add someone else [as part of] the equation. We’ll see where those cards fall in the future, but right now I feel really good about where Baltimore stands on its own.”

FIFA is exploring a joint effort between Baltimore and Washington. Baltimore, on its own, is a “long shot” to become a Host City and Washington would be a “no-brainer” with a facility that fills the needs of attending fans, players and a TV audience. The M&T Bank Stadium does a better job of that than FedEx Field, thus creating a possibility for matches in Baltimore and other events (FanFest on the National Mall being one) in D.C.

The National Football League team Washington Commanders lease at FedEx Field runs through 2027, and building a new stadium that would be used for the 2026 World Cup and be ready for the football team in 2028 is likely not a practical solution. What happens next is up to FIFA.

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