With the eyes of the world on Qatar for the 2022 World Cup, planners in the United States, Canada and Mexico will already be hard at work preparing for the 2026 iteration of the tournament. The three countries submitted a joint bid for the competition and were successful, with the US playing the largest role in staging the tournament.
The competition will be expanded to 48 teams, with all three hosts earning automatic qualification. All three are playing in Qatar 2022, and it will be interesting to see which team fares the best in the tournament ahead of their hosting duties. An intriguing bet on World Cup could be for Canada to reach the round of 16 at +275 after performing extremely well in qualifying, finishing ahead of the US and Mexico in the standings.
All three will be desperate to make an impact, none more so than the US, because out of the 16 cities staging the 2026 competition, 12 are in the United States. The Stars and Stripes will be hopeful that their home support and the emerging young team will be able to rise to the occasion in four years, drumming up support from all regions of the country.
Texas will be a crucial state as it is not one known for its love of soccer, despite the presence of FC Dallas in the Lone Star State, which was one of the best MLS teams for a two-year stretch between 2015 and 2016.
Texas is Key
Texas has two cities that will take on the mantle of hosting games at AT&T Stadium and NRG Stadium. Both venues boast outstanding facilities and will be up for the challenge due to their regular duties of hosting NFL games of the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans. They have each staged the Super Bowl, with NRG Stadium earning the nod twice in 2004 and again in 2017. Toyota Stadium, home of FC Dallas, will not be part of the schedule. It is no surprise that the two huge stadia have been selected, but it will be interesting to see whether they can be filled if sides not named the USA or Mexico are not in action.
AT & T Stadium can reach a capacity of 100,000 spectators, breaking the threshold for Super Bowl 45 when the Green Bay Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers. Dallas will be bidding to host the World Cup final but will face stiff competition from other regions of the country, where soccer appears to have a stronger following. New York and Los Angeles with MetLife Stadium and SoFi Stadium will be vying for the event. It remains to be seen whether Dallas and AT& T Stadium will be selected even with the huge numbers of fans that could fit into the venue.
The organizers of the event in the US will be determined for the World Cup to leave a legacy and there is a huge opportunity to entrench the game in Texas. It is a football state with proud traditions, but if locals in Dallas and Houston can take the game into their hearts, it could be the start of a groundswell love of soccer spreading to all corners of the US.
The USA has come a long way since 1994, the last time they hosted the event. But USA 94 did not leave a lasting legacy as seen in other countries. The pressure will be on, and they will be hopeful that Texas, especially Dallas and Houston, rewards them with packed crowds and enthusiasm even if team USA is not part of the action.