Sooner rather than later, a decision will
have to be made on the 16 cities across North America that will serve as host venues for the 2026 World Cup.
The expected breakdown is three cities in Canada (Edmonton, Montreal and Toronto), three in Mexico (Guadalajara, Mexico City and Monterrey) and 10 in the United States.
With 17 U.S. cities in the mix, the competition will be fierce. Many of the host cities have been promoting the merits of their bids, though they don't know when FIFA will make the call on the 10 U.S. venues.
When Canada, Mexico and the USA were awarded the hosting rights over Morocco in June 2018, the assumption was that FIFA's decision on the venues would be made in June 2020, though the abundance of suitable options has FIFA in no hurry to make the final cuts.
In Monday's article on the U.S. World Cup 2026 hosting choices, the Sports Business Journal listed six cities as "locks":
Atlanta (Mercedes-Benz Stadium)
Dallas (AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX)
Los Angeles (Rose Bowl in Pasadena or SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA)
Miami (Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, FL)
New York/New Jersey (MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ)
Washington, D.C. (FedExField in Landover, MD)
That would leave four hosting spots up for grabs from among 11 cities, which the Sports Business Journal divided into "competitors" (Boston, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Orlando, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Seattle) and "underdogs" (Baltimore, Cincinnati and Nashville).
FIFA has said little about such tournament details as kickoff times that might impact venue choices. Does FIFA want to play games in the afternoon in warm-weather venues? It did in 1994 in Orlando and Dallas, but climate issues are much more pronounced today than in 1994.
Another issue will be the 2026 event's carbon footprint, given the distance between venues across the North American continent. In its hosting requirements, FIFA asked for the bidders to address 11 issues related to their sustainability strategy. One of them was "the impact of transport, water usage and energy on the environment."
But the only specific mention to "carbon" in the United 2026 bid book is from Mexico: "We will pledge full support for sustainability-related improvements to make this event the lowest- carbon FIFA World Cup of the modern era and a case study for our industries."
The geographic pairing of venues will likely be an important factor in FIFA's decision-making if UEFA's organization of Euro 2020 is any indication.
As a trade-off for the cost of constructing up to 10 stadiums and modernizing airports in a single host country, UEFA has chosen to organize Euro 2020 across Europe, picking 12 venues as far part as Dublin, Ireland, and Baku, Azerbaijan.
Each of the six groups will hold matches at two venues. The driving distance between group venues ranges from 413 miles (London to Glasgow) to 2,742 miles (Rome to Baku).
Given the seriousness with which Europeans take climate issues -- climate-conscious Ajax chose to travel to its Champions League match at Lille by train instead of flying -- UEFA was quite up front about what is at stake.
“There is overwhelming international scientific consensus that human activity is the principal cause of global warming,” UEFA said in a statement issued before the draw. “If action is not taken to significantly reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions, the impacts of climate change will continue to put future generations at risk.”
Despite the distances involved, UEFA argues that the impact of Euro 2020 will less than Euro 2016 in France: 405,000 tons of carbon emissions related to travel vs. 517,000 tons four years ago due to as many as 11 teams playing all or part of their group matches at home. Added to that in France was 2.2 million tons of carbon emissions related to the construction of four new stadiums, renovations at other venues and infrastructure work.
UEFA's goal is to offset all the 405,000 tons of emissions by investing in various projects with South Pole, a firm that specialized in working with businesses, governments and communities on climate action.
They projects include providing efficient stoves to rural parts in Rwanda in Rwanda, investing in the Prony and Kafeate wind farm projects in New Caledonia, plus event-specific initiatives like providing free local transportation to fans traveling to stadiums.
In addition, UEFA also will plant 600,000 trees across the 12 Euro 2020 host nations.