For the first time since 1994, the World Cup is back in North America. Sixteen cities — 11 in the United States, three in Mexico and two in Canada — will be holding matches during the 2026 FIFA World Cup.
The host sites for 2026 World Cup games will be finalized in the first half of 2022, and, to no one's surprise, the games being contested in the United States will be played at rather large football stadiums.
Watching a group stage game at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida, between England and Saudi Arabia in 91-degree weather and 76 percent humidity hardly sounds appealing. Have we learned nothing from the 1994 World Cup about hosting games down south during the summer? And what is the appeal of watching games in oversized football stadiums?
Sure, FIFA has certain requirements for stadiums (they must hold at least 40,000 fans and yada yada), but why should we be forced to watch soccer inside soulless slabs of concrete when there are plenty of better places in this country to watch sporting events?
Stadiums with history, soul and character should be chosen over corporate arenas constructed to hold as many people as possible.
I don't make the rules, but if I did, these are five stadiums I would choose to host 2026 World Cup matches — the Peoples' World Cup.
2026 World Cup Host Sites That Should Have Made The Cut
Ann Arbor, Michigan
FIFA wants World Cup games played in big arenas, yet none of the 10 biggest stadiums in the United States will be hosting matches in four years. Let's indulge them. Michigan Stadium, aka "The Big House," might not have the amenities of AT&T Stadium in Dallas, but none of that will matter when 110,000 fans head to Ann Arbor to watch a knockout stage game.
The home of the Michigan Wolverines held 109,318 fans when Real Madrid faced off against Manchester United in an International Champions Cup match in 2014, a record for a soccer game played in America, plus, the Big House also holds the single-game attendance record for a college football game with 115,000 fans. Yes, please.
Of the 17 American stadiums still in contention for hosting World Cup games, not a single one is soccer-specific. NFL stadiums are fine and dandy for hosting large crowds and making big bucks, but they're not made for soccer.
In their 12 seasons in the MLS, the Portland Timbers have sold out every home game at Providence Park; that's an environment you can't replicate elsewhere. The Pacific Northwest has some of the most soccer-mad folks in the country, and Providence Park is their place of worship.
Green Bay, Wisconsin
The Frozen Tundra has long been an impenetrable fortress for the Green Bay Packers, so why shouldn't the same hold true for the USMNT? Imagine the intimidation factor for the visiting team when they realize the entire Green Bay skyline is just a parking garage.
For years now, the only foot-to-ball contact happening in Green Bay has come from Packers kicker Mason Crosby, but this summer, Lambeau will be hosting an historic friendly between Manchester City and Bayern Munich. Sports fans up north might not know a lot about soccer, but they know a heck of a lot about one thing: America. The World Cup is the only logical next step.
Opening in May 2022, 30,000-seat Geodis Park will be the largest soccer-specific stadium in the United States or Canada. Yet instead of this state-of-the-art ground, it is Nissan Stadium — home of the the Tennessee Titans on the other side of Nashville — that is a finalist to host World Cup games.
Where have we gone wrong? When the U.S. hosted the 1994 World Cup, soccer-specific fields were something you found at your local park, complete with overgrown grass and maybe a few bleachers. A few decades later, the United States has a fine collection of soccer stadiums at all levels of the game, yet none of them will be showcased on the game's biggest stage. Such a shame.
GEODIS Park is ready to shine ✨ pic.twitter.com/2lR3eh8G03— Nashville SC (@NashvilleSC) March 10, 2022
Saint Paul, Minnesota
Truly an architectural masterpiece, Allianz Field is easily the most beautiful stadium in Major League Soccer. Add in the rabid soccer fans of the Twin Cities and you have a near-perfect environment for watching soccer.
Allianz Field already proved its viability when it hosted the frigid USMNT game against Honduras back in February, plus its sister stadium in Munich has already hosted World Cup and Euro matches as well as a Champions League final. Give Minnesotans the World Cup game they deserve.