This autumn, roughly half of the globe’s population is expected to tune in to watch soccer’s most prestigious tournament: The 2022 World Cup. The event is so significant that, whenever comparisons about the magnitude of it come up, pundits usually bring up the idea of multiple, simultaneous Super Bowls or the Summer Olympics.
But, there are more important reasons for Americans to pay attention to this game than just impressive viewership. That’s because, more than 30 years after it first hosted the World Cup in 1994, the U.S. — in a joint bid with Canada and Mexico — won the right to host the 2026 Soccer World Cup. And, with 60 of the tournament’s 80 total matches scheduled to take place in the U.S., various cities have jumped at the chance to boost their public image; highlight their public and sporting infrastructure; and generally create a buzz around the event.
So, drawing upon FIFA’s Guide to the Bidding Process, we analyzed a set of seven metrics that would allow us to better gauge the technical capabilities of each of the 17 U.S. cities that have placed bids to meet the organization’s selection criteria. The indicators we analyzed include:
- Stadium capacity
- Fan Fest venues
- Training facilities
- Broadcasting capabilities
- Public transit usage
- Airport passenger volume and distance from stadium
For more details about how these metrics are defined, as well as relevant data sources, please refer to our methodology section.
Check out the table below for the full breakdown of the cities we analyzed by weighted point values and metric values.
There’s no better place to celebrate the game than inside it’s very own temple — the stadium. But, because FIFA validates stadiums presented and then allocates matches in various phases of the tournament by total number of seats, our ranking focuses on size.
Of course, there are other requirements that can alter the final selection. For example, many U.S. candidate cities will have to find a way to successfully replace their current turf playing fields with natural grass. Pitch width is also an issue, as FIFA requires additional room for press, staff and first aid personnel. Arenas with retractable roofs are also favored.
Hover over each picture for more details about each city’s designated stadium, capacity and ranking.
For this metric, Dallas heads the list of the 2026 World Cup cities, having obtained the maximum 30 points allocated to this indicator. First, the city’s AT&T Stadium can seat up to 92,967 people. Located in suburban Arlington, it’s one of the largest and most technologically advanced entertainment venues in the world, boasting the largest HDTV video board cluster.
Additionally, Dallas sits at the center of a regional nexus of stadiums and sport facilities that it can draw upon for its bid. These include the Cotton Bowl Stadium — which hosted several group-stage matches during the 1994 World Cup, as well as the quarterfinal between Brazil and the Netherlands; Globe Life Park (48,114 seats); and the Toyota Stadium in Frisco (20,500 seats).
Not far behind, Los Angeles placed second with a total of 25.14 points out of 30. In particular, the Rose Bowl Stadium — the site of the 1994 World Cup final with a seating capacity of 88,432 — has been designated as the city’s official venue, although Los Angeles has a few other options it might offer up to FIFA. For instance, during last year’s inspection, local organizers took FIFA delegates on a tour of the $5 billion SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, which can seat between 70,240 and 100,240 people. It’s also the newest of the three arenas in the metropolitan area that Los Angeles could count on. However, the venue also faces some challenges in meeting the selection criteria and has not (as of yet) been included in the city’s official bid.
Denver’s Empower Field is also a strong contender, with a 77,595-seat capacity and a hosting résumé that includes major events like the 2008 Democratic National Convention or the opening night of the 2011 U2 360 North American Tour. The stadium also has strong connection to soccer, as it’s the venue for several international and club matches.
It’s also worth noting that M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore — currently in 8th place with 6.41 out of 30 points — could also play an interesting role. During FIFA’s inspection in Washington, D.C. last fall, the capital received high marks for its presentation, but FedEx Field raised some concerns due to recent mishaps. Consequently, because FIFA places significant emphasis on stadiums in its selection, a rumored joint bid between D.C. and Baltimore might be a winning move for both cities.
Finally, the last time the World Cup was held in the U.S., Houston didn’t make the shortlist of prospective 2026 World Cup cities — a fact that has made local fans, organizers and city leaders doubly ambitious about making a splash this time around. Built in 2002, NRG Stadium has a capacity of 72,220 for soccer matches, as well as a fully retractable roof. Importantly, the latter has been emphasized by organizers as an essential asset that would be able to protect the integrity of the broadcast window regardless of weather conditions.
Fan Fest Venues
The FIFA Fan Fest is meant to be a place where supporters gather for the greatest party of the World Cup — cheering for their favorites, dancing and enjoying various events. It’s associated with a massive influx of tourists and major turnout from local soccer enthusiasts, in addition to people who are simply eager to experience the vibrant atmosphere of an event of this scale.
The first-ever Fan Fest took place as a spontaneous gathering of fans during the 2002 World Cup in South Korea, but it was subsequently taken up by FIFA and formalized. The idea is to provide fans with free access to a quality giant screen for match-viewing in a secure environment and accompanied by a range of merchandise, food and drinking options.
In terms of sheer crowd capacity, Kansas City, Mo., blew the competition out of the water, picking up the 15-point maximum for this metric. Its two prospective Fan Fest locations — the “Historic Center” (National World War I Museum and Memorial in downtown) and the “Cultural Center” (Theis Park in midtown) — could sustain crowds of up to 370,000.
Likewise, the FIFA Fan Fest in Cincinnati would be concentrated around Sawyer Point and The Banks, both prime locations within the city’s downtown. The first location consists of two adjacent parks equipped with a riverfront concert lawn, pavilion and amphitheater, while The Banks is just outside of Paul Brown Stadium. Cincinnati picked up 11.25 out of 15 points for this indicator — its best performance across the board.
Boston wrapped up the top three for this indicator with its two proposed venues that have a combined crowd capacity of 220,000 participants. First, City Hall Plaza is a 4.6-acre space in downtown Boston that has regularly been used for various entertainment, sporting or commercial activities. It’s also been the chosen spot for World Cup viewing parties in the past. Meanwhile, Boston Common is the larger of the two locations and hosts a monument to the Oneida Football Club — the very first organized soccer club in the U.S., which used the grounds in the 1860s.
Finally, Seattle proposed the new Waterfront Park — a 20-acre public park that offers stunning views of Elliott Bay and the city skyline — as the focus point for Fan Fest. Visitors here would have a wide variety of activities to partake in between matches or could just explore the many small businesses dotted around the historic neighborhoods of Seattle. The venues’ combined capacity is 35,000 people.
In addition to stadiums, FIFA representatives pay careful attention to training facilities. These amenities play an important role in the participants’ performance during the tournament, as they provide a chance to train near their hotel residences. For this reason, the size and quality of the playing surfaces need to match those found in stadiums, and proximity to the team’s accommodations are also important factors.
Nashville’s performance was particularly strong for this metric. The city scored 9.61 out of 10 points to overtake all other candidate cities. Its proposed training centers include the grounds at Trevecca Nazarene and Lipscomb universities, as well as two future MLS facilities with grass playing surfaces.
Meanwhile, teams stationed in Philadelphia — which ranked 7th with 6.62 out of 10 points — could train at UPenn’s Rhodes Field, Drexel University, NovaCare Complex and Subaru Park (formerly Talen Energy Stadium).
Broadcasting rights are essential to all stakeholders in the process. In fact, licensing accounts for more than half of FIFA’s total revenue, while media companies enjoy unprecedented ratings and a rush from advertisers.
In this way, being able to provide a robust IT&T and broadcasting network is paramount. Unsurprisingly, as the two dominant poles of the nation’s media landscape, New York/New Jersey and Los Angeles are extremely well-positioned in this ranking, as well: They collected 10 and 9.38 out of 10 points, respectively — a significant advantage over the runners-up.
Specifically, there are roughly 1,032 media and broadcasting companies in the greater New York metropolitan area, and some 970 in Los Angeles. Nevertheless, these numbers have not discouraged contenders like Miami, Dallas or Atlanta, which have been eyeing the opportunity to host the International Broadcast Centre (IBC). During the event, the IBC acts as a temporary hub for journalists and broadcasters from around the world. As a matter of fact, Dallas has already hosted the IBC once — when the Fair Park’s art deco buildings were chosen as the location of the hub during the 1994 Soccer World Cup.
The Bay Area placed third in this metric due to the presence of roughly 320 broadcasting and publishing companies in the area. Here, San Francisco and its partnering cities tout their experience in hosting, attracting large crowds and televising international matches — such as the 1994 World Cup; the Women’s World Cup in 1999; and international exhibitions for teams like Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, Chelsea or Manchester United.
On the opposite coast, Miami has the fifth-highest number of media and broadcasting companies among the candidate cities, with the bonus of being home to Telemundo — one of the major FIFA licensing holders for the 2026 World Cup.
Last, but not least, Philadelphia’s bidding team highlights the size of the region’s media market — the fourth-largest in the U.S. — and the presence of telecommunications giant Comcast in the city as its strong points.
Back in 1994, few of the stadiums that hosted World Cup matches were easily accessible by mass transit. However, in the subsequent decades, FIFA’s position on the importance of public transit has shifted significantly — and it’s likely to be a much greater point of emphasis in 2026. At the same time, while there are several stadiums that don’t have a direct subway, bus or rail link to downtown, in some cases, that’s indicative of a shift away from suburban arenas and toward downtown stadiums in more walkable areas.
In this area, New York/New Jersey is in the pole position once again, having garnered the maximum score (10 points) for its public transit usage (31.9%). Despite the vast infrastructure resources put forward by this joint bid, the sheer size of the crowds that would need to be handled during match days has pushed the New Jersey Transit Board to devise a new transit concept to replace or augment the existing rail line. This would prevent a repeat of the transit fiasco during the 2014 Super Bowl, when crowds had to wait for hours for shuttle trains out of the stadium.
Next, Washington, D.C. and Boston tied for the runner-up spot with 4.03 out of 10 points each. In particular, the capital boasts the third-largest rail transit system with Amtrak, as well as the sixth-largest bus network in the nation. Here, public transit usage stood at 13.4% in 2019.
When selecting viable accommodation options, FIFA is likely to make its assessment based on convenience, location and flexibility of hotel offerings. As such, an experienced hospitality and tourism industry that can be mustered to support the tournament will provide an important bonus to any candidate city.
Here again, New York/New Jersey received another 10 points and placed first for this indicator, standing out not only in terms of the total number of hotel rooms (96,129 expected by 2026), but also for the variety of accommodation options — from luxury to budget properties, as well as national and international chains to boutique hotels.
Not to be outdone, the inventory in Orlando — the home of Disney World and other major tourist destinations, such as SeaWorld and Universal Studios — is expected to reach 93,969 hotel rooms by 2026, which places it second for this metric (just behind New York/New Jersey) and scoring a total of 9.75 out of 10 points.
Across the country, Los Angeles closed out the top three with a total of 79,569 hotel rooms to its name to add another 8.09 points to the city’s overall score.
Given the global nature of the tournament, host city airports will process most of the inbound visitors. As such, this is when the moniker “international gateway” will really have to be propped up by the airport’s passenger volume and its ability to handle a major uptick in traffic. Therefore, the 15 points allocated to this metric were divided as follows: 60% of the score was allotted for the airport’s annual passenger volume and 40% was attributed to its proximity to the local stadium.
First up, Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson airport consistently ranks among the busiest in the world, with an annual passenger traffic of roughly 100 million people. Plus, there’s only about 10.5 miles between it and Mercedes-Benz Stadium in downtown Atlanta. Consequently, this is Atlanta’s best-performing metric across the board.
Philadelphia came in second place with Philadelphia International Airport, which is located 6.2 miles from Lincoln Financial Field stadium. The airport has an annual passenger traffic volume of roughly 29 million people. It’s also undergone more than $2 billion in capital improvements throughout the last two decades and plans to spend another $900 million on upgrades by 2026.
Notably, the Bay Area would be relying on Mineta San Jose International Airport for its air travel — a record-setting airport built in 1945 with an annual passenger traffic volume of 12 million. And, with only 5.6 miles separating the airport and Levi’s Stadium, it’s also the closest airport to its associated arena among the 17 candidate cities.
This analysis relies on data gathered by the U.S. Census Bureau and the joint submission by the Canadian Soccer Association, the Mexican Football Association, and the United States Soccer Federation during their bid to host the FIFA 2026 World Cup.
Points for all indicators were distributed directly proportional to their value. Entries could gather a maximum of 100 points.
“Stadium capacity” refers to the estimated number of seats that the venue can be fitted with for a soccer match. Data provided by the official United Bid Book for the FIFA 2026 World Cup. The maximum weight for this metric was 30 points.
“Airport” is a compound metric that encompasses two data points. The maximum weight for this metric was 15 points, distributed as follows:
“Annual passenger volume,” which is defined as the total number of passengers serviced by an airport throughout the course of a year. The maximum weight for this metric was 9 points.
“Distance from stadium,” which is defined as the road distance between the airport and the nearest eligible stadium. All distances are expressed in miles, after being converted from kilometers and rounded up. The maximum weight for this metric was 6 points.
“Public transit” measures the percentage of public transportation usage in a metropolitan statistical area. Values scored were based off 2019 American Community Survey Reports by the U.S. Census. The maximum weight for this metric was 10 points.
“Broadcasting” refers to the total number of broadcasting establishments available within a metropolitan statistical area, recorded under the following NAICS code categories: 515210 and 519130. Values scored were based off 2019 County Business Patterns by the U.S. Census. The maximum weight for this metric was 10 points.
“Fan Fest venues” is calculated as the sum of the estimated crowd capacity of each candidate’s proposed locations, as expressed in the United Bid Book for the FIFA 2026 World Cup. The maximum weight for this metric was 15 points.
“Hotels” refers to the total number of hotel rooms available in each city, as expressed in the United Bid Book for the FIFA 2026 World Cup. The maximum weight for this metric was 10 points.
“Training facilities” is a compound metric that encompasses two data points. The maximum weight for this metric was 10 points, evenly distributed across the following indicators:
“Distance from team hotel,” which is defined as the road distance between the training facility and the team’s allotted accommodation. All distances are expressed in miles, after being converted from kilometers and rounded up.
“Distance to stadium,” which is defined as the road distance between the team’s allotted accommodation and the stadium. All distances are expressed in miles, after being converted from kilometers and rounded up.
NAICS codes and titles used to define broadcasting establishments:
“515210//”,“Cable and Other Subscription Programming”
“519130//”,“Internet Publishing and Broadcasting and Web Search Portals – Broadcasting”