A North American joint bid won the rights Wednesday to host the 2026 edition of the celebrated soccer tournament, defeating Morocco and bouncing back from an unfathomable U.S. defeat to Qatar in voting for the 2022 event eight years ago.
The member associations in FIFA, the sport’s governing body, favored the North American effort, known as the United Bid, in a landslide vote, 134-65.
Thus, 32 years after setting World Cup attendance records in hosting the 1994 competition, the United States will join forces with its neighbors to organize a championship that, in 2026, will expand to 48 teams from 32. Mexico hosted the World Cup in 1970 and ’86. Canada is involved for the first time.
It will mark the first time three countries have shared the planet’s most popular sporting event.
The World Cup is coming. Want smart analysis, opinions, viewing guides and more? Sign up for our month-long newsletter. First edition coming on June 13th.
In an agreement announced when the bid launched last year, the United States will stage 60 of the 80 matches, including all from the quarterfinals on, while Mexico and Canada will get 10 apiece. Twenty-three cities, including Washington and Baltimore, are in the running to become the 16 match venues. In all likelihood, 11 of the 17 proposed U.S. sites will make the cut. A decision is not expected for another two years.
Wednesday’s vote, conducted during the FIFA Congress at Moscow’s expo center, provided a much-needed victory for American soccer, which is in the process of rebuilding the men’s program in the wake of last fall’s failure to qualify for this summer’s World Cup in Russia. With the Americans absent for the first time since 1986, the tournament will begin Thursday in Moscow with Russia facing Saudi Arabia.
The bid victory will also stack the U.S. sports landscape with major competitions in perhaps three consecutive years. Besides the 2026 World Cup, the U.S. Soccer Federation is tentatively planning to bid for the 2027 Women’s World Cup and Los Angeles is set to host the 2028 Olympic Games.
U.S. soccer officials see the 2026 championship as an opportunity to further grow a sport that has blossomed since the ’94 tournament with the ascent of first- and second-division pro leagues (Major League Soccer and United Soccer League) and a fertile environment for matches and events involving eminent teams from around the world.