10 reasons the World Cup coming to Philly in 2026 is a big f-king deal

This is an event on a global scale, and Philadelphia gets to shine.

A girl kicks a soccer ball at the Love Park announcement party where Philly found out the city was selected as host

A girl kicks a soccer ball at the Love Park announcement party where Philly found out the city was selected as host

Emma Lee / WHYY
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Five years after the selection process began, Philadelphia on Thursday was announced as one of the host cities for the 2026 FIFA World Cup in North America.

Philly joins 10 other U.S. cities, along with three in Mexico and two in Canada. Specifics haven’t yet been revealed, but Lincoln Financial Field is expected to be a main site for matches, able to accommodate roughly 62,000 fans. Officials expect more than 500,000 people to visit for the events.

The World Cup is one of the most celebrated sporting events on the planet. So even if you’re not (yet) a soccer lover, why should you be excited to be a host?

From the city’s role in the developing the sport in America to the diversity the contestants highlight, here are 10 good reasons.

It could bring hundreds of millions in economic impact

Upwards of 500,000 attendees are expected to visit Philly over the course of the matches, according to Philadelphia Soccer 2026, a group that lobbied for the nomination. Visitor spending is expected to reach between $147 and $262 million. Those funds certainly wouldn’t hurt amid lingering questions about the city’s spending and saving plans.

Mega-events can also bring displacement, recent history shows. And public participation in the hosting process is often closed or inequitable.

How susceptible Philly is to the destructive dynamics of hosting the World Cup is an open question.

It’s good for tourism and Philly’s place on the world stage

A healthy tourism industry is a boon for city enterprises large and small. Putting Philly in front of faces from around the world will undoubtedly have some influence on the rate of visitors.

How many faces are we talking about? FIFA reported average viewership for any 2018 World Cup match was 191 million, so it’s fair to expect tens if not hundreds of millions to tune in.

It’ll reemphasize Philly’s role in the growth of soccer in America

The Philadelphia region is one of the places where soccer gained an initial foothold in the U.S.

Colleges in the region dominated competition in the 1910s and 20s, the early years of collegiate soccer. Professional clubs were critical to American soccer’s first “Golden Age” and found consistent success in the 40s and 50s.

It’s a chance to celebrate the region’s various immigrant communities

The World Cup is a great way to celebrate the many nationalities that make up Philly. Once we know which teams will be competing in the city, there will be a wonderful excuse to celebrate and boost the diasporas that reside in the area.

2026 is the semiquincentennial celebration

The United States is turning 250! Most already know this is going to be a big deal, as the city will be finding all kinds of ways to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Philadelphia is vying to play a central role in the nation’s festivities, and there’s hardly a better way than by hosting an event that will capture the world’s eyes.

You can easily see it… a Ken Burns-esque montage of historic sites in Old City just before cutting to the halftime break. It just works.

It’ll create jobs (somehow)

As many as 3,500 new jobs could be created through being a World Cup host, per Philadelphia Soccer 2026, though it’s unclear in which sectors.

Still, the construction of practice fields and lodging for competitors are two clear ways trades workers could experience a windfall via football.

FDR Park will get pro-level soccer fields (tho there is backlash)

One of the more controversial aspects of the World Cup’s presence is the fate of swathes of FDR Park, which the city has proposed as a potential practice site for visiting national teams.

Last year, a Parks & Rec spokesperson noted a soccer field was already part of FDR Park’s massive makeover plan, announced in 2019.

That doesn’t mean building a new site wouldn’t meet some resistance, since it’s not just one pitch that’s needed. FIFA rules require the construction of multiple fields, restrooms, a press box, storage areas, concession stands, and more.

It’ll highlight Pa. as one the most important places for scouting young talent

Pennsylvanians comprise some of the most popular players on the U.S. Men’s National Team.

Chelsea F.C.’s Christian Pulisic hails from Hershey and Manchester City’s Zack Steffen is from Coatesville, while Brenden Aronson is Philly region success story — the Medford, NJ native rose to fame playing for Philly’s MLS team, the Union, and just signed with the legendary Leeds United.

States like Texas and California are also known for producing American footballers, but heavy enthusiasm for Philly-based matches could help continue to highlight the Keystone State’s importance for the nation’s ongoing ambitions.

It’ll showcase Philly’s growing capacity for these events

Philadelphia has proved itself as capable hosts of soccer tournaments in the recent past.

Serving as a host city for the 2003 Women’s World Cup and the 2016 Copa América Centenario is just about the best preparation a city can get. With those events under our belt, the most important matches of the beautiful game should find a fitting venue.

Philly could (re)claim the title of ‘Sports City, USA’

Philadelphia is already hosting one high-profile sporting event in 2026: the MLB All-Star Game. Being a venue for both events only demonstrates the versatility of and market for Philly sports — and help dispel the bad rep fans have not been able to shake.

During the Bicentennial celebration, Philadelphia apparently hosted more than 100 sporting events. At the MLB announcement, officials said it helped Philly earn the moniker of “Sports City, USA.”

A preliminary search didn’t turn up much evidence, although a Daily News article from 1983 did include the line, “The way things are going, Philadelphia is starting to look like Sports City, USA.”

Either way, ensuring nobody’s able to pigeonhole the city as a one-trick pony would demonstrate the comprehensive sporting ecosystem Philly enjoys.

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