The World Cup is coming to North America – and perhaps to Miami – in 2026.
Member nations of FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, voted Wednesday in Moscow to bring the 2026 World Cup to the United States, Canada and Mexico.
The three nations combined on a joint bid to host the tournament – one of the world’s largest sporting events -- and defeated a competing bid from Morocco, 134 votes to 65 votes.
Hard Rock Stadium, the Miami Dolphins’ home in Miami Gardens, was among the venues listed in the United Bid Committee’s package to FIFA last summer in hopes of bringing the World Cup back to North America.
It wasn’t immediately known which level of World Cup matches Dolphins owner Stephen Ross’ group and Hard Rock Stadium will seek. It could potentially be a package of first-round matches and/or anything up to a quarterfinal or third-place game matchup.
When Joe Robbie built the stadium that originally bore his name, he hoped to host matches for the 1994 World Cup, but they instead went to Orlando because the stadium was being used by the Marlins. Now that the Marlins have their own ballpark, Hard Rock’s summer calendar can accommodate the World Cup.
The North American bid also proposed a prominent role for Atlanta, suggesting that the two semifinals matches could be played at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium and the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. It also suggests that either Atlanta or Dallas could host the international broadcast center for the 2026 event.
While those proposals are subject to further negotiation and other U.S. cities could emerge as semifinal options -- a FIFA evaluation report also mentioned Boston and Washington as possibilities -- Atlanta’s chances appear strong. The North American bid cited “geographic location, travel distances and stadium capacity” as reasons for pitching Atlanta and Arlington as the semifinals sites.
The U.S./Canada/Mexico bid names 23 cities in the three nations as candidates to host World Cup matches eight years from now and says the number will be whittled down to 16 “official host cities” by June 2021, including at least 10 in the U.S.
“The (joint) bid offers FIFA 23 qualified stadiums – more than the required number -- and all are ready to compete to offer the best possible experience for players and officials, fans, partners, media, and other stakeholders, giving FIFA maximum flexibility and leverage,” the bid book states. “The (joint) bid will work with FIFA to select the final 16 stadiums for the competition.”
For the 2026 World Cup, the number of participating teams will increase from 32 to 48 and the number of matches from 64 to 80. Ten matches will be played in Canada, 10 in Mexico and 60 in the U.S. The North American bid proposes MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., as the site of the final match, while a FIFA report also listed Los Angeles and Dallas as options for the final.
Key advantages of the North American bid were its lofty projection that the tournament will generate $14 billion in revenue and the fact that all of the proposed stadiums are already built.
* Hal Habib of The Palm Beach Post contributed to this article.