Updated June 18
The World Cup is coming to North America in 2026, FIFA announced Wednesday, and Philly’s on the shortlist of possible cities to hold games.
There are 23 potential locations for the matches in the international soccer championship, which will be spread across the U.S., Mexico and Canada. These will have to be narrowed down to just 16.
Real talk: Philadelphia is an obvious choice, for several reasons.
First, 2026 marks the nation’s semiquincentennial anniversary, and the USA250 celebration is already being planned — and Philly will serve as a convening place for celebration. Dovetails perfectly with games that will draw an international audience, since they’ll be able to explore and learn about this experiment we call the United States.
Second, Philly has well-proven its ability to host major events. There was 2015’s papal visit, which brought anywhere from 142,000 to 860,000 people to town (depending how you count). We also had the successful DNC and a super-popular NFL Draft recently.
Mayor Kenney touted that experience in a statement on Wednesday — “We have a thriving hotel sector, robust restaurant scene, and the transportation infrastructure to accommodate visitors from around the globe,” he said — and pointed out another selling point: we’re a sanctuary city, and have made it a policy to welcome people from all over the world.
“Events like this not only benefit the local tourism industry and our broader economy,” Kenney’s statement continued, “but also give Philadelphia the opportunity to showcase to the world how welcoming we are as a city.”
Update: A few days later, Mayor Kenney elaborated on the topic, saying, “We’ve been running big events now for quite some time… I think we’re in pretty good shape.”
Advantage No. 4 for Philly: we have the 69,000-seat Lincoln Financial Field ready to go. The home of the Super Bowl champs will not need to billions of dollars worth of renovations to accommodate the World Cup, like some stadiums might (let us know how that works out for you, Russia).
All that said, do we really want Philadelphia to host matches?
In 2010, when South Africa hosted the World Cup, the country invested a reported $3.9 billion the event. Sadly for them, it only attracted half the number of expected tourists and, per World Finance, economic growth slowed from 4.6 to 2.6 percent during the event.
Unlike South Africa, however, the last time the World Cup was played in the U.S., in 1994, things went much better. The reported economic impact was $1.45 billion on the positive side, and Los Angeles saw $620 million in impact alone from hosting the final. Moreover, it was impetus for a whole new professional sports area: Major League Soccer was established two years later.
In 2026, the World Cup field will expand from 32 to 48 teams, and 60 of the 80 games will be played in the U.S., including all of the matches past the quarterfinal. Canada and Mexico will each host 10 games.
Canada previously hosted the women’s World Cup in 2015, and Mexico will become the third nation to have hosted three times. The U.S still holds the record for highest world cup attendance, with 3.6 million.
Philadelphians will have to wait until 2020 or 2021 for FIFA will make their decision on the host cities. No worries — after all, we waited 57 years for a Super Bowl victory.