International soccer's governing body, FIFA, holds a workshop Tuesday with the 17 U.S. cities vying to host matches during the 2026 World Cup being jointly hosted by the United States, Mexico and Canada. Cincinnati is among the cities being considered for one of the 10 U.S. slots.
The workshop, which will be held virtually, was originally scheduled for March but was postponed by the global coronavirus pandemic. Workshops for the potential Mexican and Canadian host cities were completed prior to the pandemic's onset.
FIFA Chief Tournaments and Events Officer Colin Smith says the workshop is "an opportunity for us to get to know the cities better, to get to know the stadiums (and) to enter into more details."
Smith says FIFA will look at everything from a city's climate to infrastructure.
"We look at the roads, we look at the airports, we look at the hotels," he says. "...transport concepts, mobility concepts. We obviously look at human rights, sustainability, stakeholder engagement processes in each of the host cities and really paint a whole picture."
After the workshop, FIFA will begin scheduling visits to each potential location.
FC Cincinnati is leading Cincinnati's bid to become a host city.
"I would offer that Cincinnati is one of the most successful soccer markets in the United States right now," says FC Cincinnati President Jeff Berding. "What we've seen over the last five years, I would think that's a success story that (the U.S. Soccer Federation) would want to show off because it shows the growth of soccer in our country to the rest of the world."
The U.S. Soccer Federation is coordinating the selection process, but Smith says the decision is ultimately FIFA's.
The minimum stadium capacity requirement to host a game is 40,000. If selected, any match(es) in Cincinnati would be played at Paul Brown Stadium.
Smith says FIFA had originally planned to finalize the venues in spring 2021. He says it could now be the third or fourth quarter of this year before the organization has an idea of when it could announce the final selections.
In total, 16 cities in the U.S., Canada and Mexico will be selected to host matches during the 2026 World Cup, which is being expanded to 48 teams. The U.S. will host 60 matches, including the final. Canada and Mexico will host 10 matches each.
The 23 finalist cities are:
- Kansas City
- Los Angeles
- New York/New Jersey
- San Francisco Bay Area
- Washington, D.C.
- Mexico City