Chicago wilfully misses 2026 World Cup bus


Chicago Soldier Field Image: Solder Field

The city of Chicago, Illinois (US) is no longer in the running to become a host venue for the 2026 FIFA World Cup™.

The above development was confirmed recently via a conference call with FIFA Chief Tournaments and Events Officer Colin Smith and former U.S. Soccer CEO Dan Flynn.

In March 2018, both Chicago and Vancouver removed themselves from consideration as potential host cities for the soccer spectacle – which is being co-hosted by the United States, Mexico, and Canada – amid concern over the financial burden of such a role.

One of the reasons could be the low seating capacity of Chicago’s historic stadium. Soldier Field would be the second smallest spot out of any World Cup host option, accommodating only 61,500. The massive competition also draws enormous crowds, possibly causing logistical concerns for a highly-populated place like Chicago.

During the 1994 World Cup, Soldier Field in Chicago, home of the National Football League’s (NFL’s) Chicago Bears, staged the opening game and four other matches, the only time the US has played host to the sporting magnum opus.

Prior to the online FIFA workshop held on July 7, it was confirmed by the international governing body of association football that Chicago will not be given a second chance to be considered for selection. FIFA and the United States Soccer Federation held virtual workshops with the 17 cities in the US looking to make it to list of the Final 10 which will be chosen.

The remaining US candidate cities are Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Cincinnati, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.

Same is the case with Vancouver, meaning Edmonton, Montreal and Toronto is the only sites under consideration in Canada.

It was hoped that the selection process for the host cities would be home in on by Spring 2021. However, everything was thrown into disarray due to the global outbreak of COVID-19 and this process has been delayed indefinitely.

FIFA hopes a timeline will emerge by the end of the year – “We initially planned that we would finalize the selection process in the Spring of [2021]. Now, obviously, that was based on us having started this in March and conducting at least, I would say, two sets of inspection visits throughout this year in order to finalize that process. Obviously, now we’ve had to delay that. It’s very difficult to give a final date, because when we don’t know when the start date is,” informed Smith.

“It’s not clear yet when we will be able to come and conduct those inspection visits. I would say that we need a few more weeks yet to see how things develop and then I would say Q3, beginning of Q4 this year we would have a better idea as to the inspection visit schedule and then the time needed for the selection,” Smith added.

As for the final decision, Flynn said FIFA will make the call, though U.S. Soccer does have input. It was also noted that 80,000 is the minimum fan capacity for the eventual final.

Flynn, referring to what the 1994 World Cup did for soccer in America, believes even greater potential awaits in 2026. The US, alongside co-hosts Mexico and Canada, will have robust leagues and infrastructure that can give a shot in the arm.

“We’ve got 20-plus years of experience since hosting ‘94, if you will. I think it takes on a greater role than it certainly did in ‘94, but I also think there are just greater opportunities. Our sport is at a different level than it was pre-’94,” Flynn added.

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