Gianni Infantino: 'I think this part of the world doesn't realize what will happen in 2026'

FIFA President Gianni Infantinowarned Canada, Mexico and the United States to prepare for a football "invasion" on Thursday as the host cities for the 2026 World Cup were revealed.

The first ever World Cup co-hosted by three different countries will also see a record number of teams taking part, increasing by 16 from 32 to 48 as the tournament returns to North America for the first time since the 1994 finals.

The 16 venues named on Thursday include 11 in the United States, three in Mexico and two in Canada.

All of the US games will be held in venues that are home to NFL teams, with the likes of the $5 billion SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles and the New York Giants' 82,000-seat MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford tipped to host the final.

A total of 60 of the 80 games in the tournament -- including all knockout games from the quarter-finals onwards -- will take place at U.S. venues.

Mexico City's iconic Azteca Stadium -- host of the 1970 and 1986 World Cup finals -- was included among three Mexican venues along with the cities of Monterrey and Guadalajara, another three-time host. Vancouver and Toronto will stage the Canadian games in the tournament. 

Infantino meanwhile said 2026 would eclipse the 1994 finals in the United States -- which holds the record for the highest total attendance -- in every respect.

"2026 will be much, much bigger," Infantino said. "I think this part of the world doesn’t realize what will happen in 2026. These three countries will be turned upside down and then flipped again. The world will be invading Canada, Mexico and the United States. They will be invaded by a big wave of joy and happiness."

Infantino said he hoped the World Cup would spur the development of soccer in the region further.

"In this part of the world, you are leading the world in many areas. But in the number one sport in the world, soccer or football, you are not, yet," he said. "The objective must be that you are leading the world in the world’s number one sport."

A decision on which venues would host marquee matches such as the World Cup final and opening game had not yet been taken.

"We still have to discuss that, we still have to analyze that," Infantino said. "We will take a decision in due course."

Infantino revealed that given the vast geographical spread of staging the tournament across North America, FIFA was looking at basing teams in regional "clusters" to minimize travel.

"When you’re dealing with such a large region as North America we need to care about the fans and make sure that teams are playing in clusters, that fans and teams don’t have to travel crazy distances," Infantino said.

The MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, seen here hosting the 2016 Copa America Centenario final, is among venues for the 2026 World CupThe list of US venues stretch from coast to coast, featuring several cities that hosted games in the 1994 World Cup finals. However no actual stadium venues from the 1994 tournament will repeat in 2026.

Other venues include the Dallas Cowboys giant AT&T Stadium in Arlington and the Miami Dolphins' Hard Rock Stadium. Seven of the 11 venues named Thursday have hosted the Super Bowl.

The Kansas City Chiefs' Arrowhead Stadium -- the loudest stadium in the world according to the Guinness Book of World Records -- also made the cut.

NFL venues in Seattle, San Francisco, Atlanta, Houston, Boston and Philadelphia were also on the list.

However there was no place for Washington D.C. on the venues list. It means the 2026 tournament will be the first World Cup since the 1974 finals in the then West Germany not to feature a host's capital city.

Colin Smith, FIFA's chief competitions and events officer, acknowledged Washington's absence after an "incredibly competitive" bid process.

"This was a very very difficult choice," Smith said. "It's hard to imagine a World Cup coming to the U.S. and the capital city not taking a major role."

Smith, meanwhile, said some of the NFL venues would require slight modifications to widen "pinch points" but said stadium capacity would not be affected.

"The number of fans who are going to be able to experience this World Cup will probably be double than what we've previously had," he said. 

"World Cup 1994 holds the record for attendance -- and that's going to be blown out of the water."


13 comments about "Gianni Infantino: 'I think this part of the world doesn't realize what will happen in 2026'".
  1. Donald Lee, June 17, 2022 at 9:45 a.m.

    Infantino does not understand the size and complexity of US society.  I was here in 94 and many people hardly knew the World Cup was happening here.  Despite it being the largest attendance in WC history tickets were easily available for most all games, even some big ones, at face value on the street. I bought Brasil:Netherlands QF tickets at face outside the cottonbowl. Hundreds were listed for sale in the local paper.  (Not sure that will happen again, but that does not hurt my point.)    It will be much the same. I expect tickets to be harder to get but not near as hard as baseball playoffs.   The US is a huge complex society with lots of things going on. There are always tens of thousands of international guests visiting the USA.  The USA will handle a World Cup as just another series of unremarkable events.  For us soccer fans it will be huge. For most Americans hardly a blip.


    Finally, the idea that ATT Stadium can fit a FIFA sized field without reducing capacity is laughable.  Go back and watch a gold cup game highlights from that stadium and you will see.

  2. R2 Dad, June 17, 2022 at 10:27 a.m.

    There are going to be so many ways for FIFA to get this wrong, and they are much more micromanagey than in 94. There will be huge number of matches no one will care about. Will ticket prices be unreasonably high? Sufficient security/crowd control? Is VAR going to anger the masses? Are England fans going to get blotto and start riots (again)? Will hotel rates force fans to drive miles to events?

  3. John McGinty, June 17, 2022 at 12:16 p.m.

    FIFA often defies logic, except when it comes to maximizing revenues. All NFL stadia, some with artificial turf and some too small for field + advertising. First time in history of WC that host nation does not have a game scheduled in the capital city (nb: Mexico City is included in group stage). No purpose built soccer stadia. Baltimore M&T Bank Stadium very large capacity natural grass not chosen. Why? Lincoln Field Philadelphia is a wonderful soccer venue for an NFL staium however.
    Every game with a Western Hemishere national team will be a sellout. Hypothetically if New Zealand is slotted against Iran in a group match, couldn't that game be played in a purpose built venue?
    In 1994 the best tickets I could get were a quarterfinal match Italy v. Spain at Foxboro, no USMNT game tickets available day of sale,so in 2026 I expect most match tickets in the knockout stage to be scarce.
    Also remember in 1994 there was no Stub Hub, etc. to redistribute tickets, so that will help, but increase cost to purchase your select game.
    Third party vendors now rule the ticket distribution mechanism, so the solo fan has little chance in an initial sale online market to secure targeted matches.

  4. Chris Wasdyke replied, June 17, 2022 at 3:09 p.m.

    Pretty sure they stated all games will have grass fields.

  5. R2 Dad replied, June 17, 2022 at 3:46 p.m.

    Don't baseball/soccer clubs allow resale through their own sites, to recapture some of that margin? I hope FIFA/USSF is smart about ticket distribution, to avoid those 3rd party sites. Either way, single ticket buyers face an uphill climb. I'm not that far from one stadium, but I would have to budget $150/person minimum, probably closer to $250/person including parking, concessions, transportation. That's an expensive outing when I can watch at home or a pub nearby for a fraction of that. Best value matches for me would be: NL/Senegal, England/Iran, England /Wales, Argentina/Poland, France/Denmark, Belgium/Croatia, Brazil/Serbia, Brazil/Switzerland, any Costa Rica match, any match from Group H. Forget US and Mexico, too many home fans that will drive up prices. 

  6. Valerie Metzler, June 17, 2022 at 12:52 p.m.

    My family and I will go to as many games in the stadium closest to us that we can possibly fit in our schedule and our budget.  We don't care who is playing.  We just can't wait to go to A World Cup match!

  7. Kent James, June 17, 2022 at 2:04 p.m.

    I am not a fan of the expanded format, mainly because it diminishes the value (and pressure) of the qualification games.  It may also lead to an oversaturation of first round games.  I would have thought it would have been wise to include some of the smaller soccer specific stadiums for the first round games.  I would hate to see empty seats (as has happened in previous WC early rounds).  But if any nation can fill seats in stadiums, the diversity of people living in the US (and people who are willing to travel to the US) allows the US to give it a shot.  I hope they don't overprice the tickets (especially the first round).  

  8. Chris Wasdyke replied, June 17, 2022 at 3:10 p.m.

    The soccer specific stadiums are too small for a tournament of this magnitude.  Nashville is the largest at 30k.  Not going to cut it for a WC.  

  9. Chris Wasdyke, June 17, 2022 at 3:13 p.m.

    I find it funny that we're literally 1 day into the stadiums being announced and there is already so much negativity.  Typical from American soccer fans, especially those around my age and older (40+).  I feel like Americans have this inferiority complex that we need to get over.  I bet we have no problem filling all first round games at at least 75% capacity which is going to be at least 45k per game

  10. uffe gustafsson, June 17, 2022 at 5:45 p.m.

    I'm so happy that 49er stadium is part of the WC.
    no doubt that the stadium will be sold out.
    94 WC was played at the Stanford stadium and not a very good one, hard to get too and 90 thousand sets.
    could u get tickets outside, yes. 
    but that was at a time with no MLS league.
    this is a very different time, when every summer we get European team coming it's sold out w ticket prices $175 and up. That stadium know how to handle crowds and much esiar to get too. Only draw back no Sweden at the WC but my adopted USA will have my vote.
    can't wait for it to come.

  11. R2 Dad replied, June 17, 2022 at 8:03 p.m.

    Shoulda had more Zlatan! Then maybe Sweden would have qualfied!

  12. Greedy Striker, June 18, 2022 at 6:08 p.m.

    I hope Trump lets the international fans into the USA during the World Cup. Going to be right in the middle of his second term and he hates foreigners (except mail ordered brides)!

  13. Alex Michalakos, June 20, 2022 at 1:33 p.m.

    We lucked out in 1994 that England didn't qualify (as well as some other teams). This time with the expanded field there is a lot more potential for trouble.
    I could afford to go to all 4 Chicago games in 1994 as a graduate student, plus Brazil/Sweden and Italy/Spain--but I expect the prices will be so crazy that I will have to think hard about whether I would want to feel like a sap. The USMNT prices show the type of craziness that I could do without. I seem to remember some type of pre-sale for the "soccer community" in 1994--or maybe I'm wrong--but if it's anything like concert tickets, good luck buying anything even at face value.

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