The 2026 World Cup is coming to America — and Miami is expected to be one of the venues.
The united bid of the United States, Mexico and Canada on Wednesday morning was selected to host the 2026 Cup by the FIFA Congress in Moscow, Russia, where the 2018 World Cup kicks off Thursday morning. The tri-nation bid, a first in Cup history, won by a vote of 134 to 65 over Morocco.
It is the first time the tournament will be played in North America since the United States hosted in 1994.
Two Miami residents — newly-elected U.S. Soccer President Carlos Cordeiro and former University of Miami president and congressional candidate Donna Shalala, a U.S. Soccer board member — were deeply involved in the bid process. Cordeiro, who was co-chair of the bid, spent much of his first few months in office traveling the world, lobbying.
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"Obviously, Miami is very special to me, being my hometown; in fact, the beaches figure prominently in some of our slides," Cordeiro said by phone from Moscow following the announcement. Hard Rock Stadium, which was built to FIFA soccer specifications by Joe Robbie and recently renovated by Stephen Ross, has hosted sellout soccer crowds the past few summers for the International Champions Cup and is considered a leading candidate to be a World Cup stadium in 2026.
The fact that Miami is a gateway to Latin America and easy to get to from Europe will also make it a favorable site for team training camps. In the past few years, many of the world's top clubs have played here. Barcelona and Real Madrid sold out last summer for El Clasico Miami. This summer, in late-July, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Manchester City will play at Hard Rock, and the national teams of Colombia and Venezuela have a game there Sept. 7.
Twenty-three proposed cities were included in the winning bid -- 17 from the United States, three from Mexico and three from Canada. That list will be whittled down to 16 host cities by the bid committee and FIFA. In addition to Miami, the U.S. cities are Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Cincinnati, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Nashville, New York/New Jersey, Orlando, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C.
The Mexican cities are Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey. Canadian cities are Toronto, Montreal and Edmonton.
Miami Dolphins president and CEO Tom Garfinkel is hopeful Miami will be chosen to play a significant role in the 2026 World Cup. Miami was not a host city for the 1994 Cup because of schedule conflicts with the Marlins, who played at the stadium at the time.
“I think it’s exciting for the United States and North America...we’ll see what it means for Hard Rock Stadium. That’s something that still needs to be seen. I know that (Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium Owner) Stephen Ross put a lot of money into the stadium, and we designed it to be a global entertainment destination," Garfinkel said. "I think it’s among, if not the best, place to do soccer in the world now. We had El Clasico last year. We’ve got three matches coming here soon... We’re excited about that. We’ll have a couple more, hopefully, to announce by the end of the season. International soccer is going to be a big thing here. We hope to get one of the big games and be one of the final places for the World Cup when it comes here.”
Sixty of the 80 games will be played on U.S. soil, including all games from the quarterfinals through the final.
"We are blessed with 23 world class facilities, some iconic, some brand new, cutting edge and everything in between," Cordeiro said. "We will have a very difficult decision to make when we have to determine the final 16. It's a good problem. It speaks to the quality of the facilities we have. This is not a decision I'm looking forward to, but we are very, very excited about hosting. We got outstanding marks from from the FIFA task force for our facilities; that’s Miami, but also everywhere else."
Although the United States, Mexico and Canada have had some rifts on political fronts, the three nations -- and their governments -- were united in their efforts to secure the World Cup.
“Hosting the 2026 FIFA World Cup is a rare and important moment to demonstrate that we are all truly united through sport," Cordeiro said. “We are humbled by the trust our colleagues in the FIFA family have put in our bid; strengthened by the unity between our three countries and the CONCACAF region; and excited by the opportunity we have to put football on a new and sustainable path for generations to come.”
David Beckham, owner of the Miami Major League Soccer team scheduled to begin play in 2020, has been behind the United Bid from the start. He said in a video: "I played for the L.A. Galaxy for six years and I know the passion that runs through those three countries." He said the 2026 Cup should be even more exciting than the 1994 Cup because "the excitement is more there now, and the infrastructure is more there."
"Hosting a FIFA World Cup is an extraordinary honor and privilege," said Steven Reed, President of Canada Soccer and Co-Chair of the United Bid. "Canada, Mexico, and the United States are ready to welcome the world to North America and serve as stewards of the largest FIFA World Cup in history. Our vision is of a world of opportunity for our Candidate Host Cities and for the global football community."
"We are grateful for the chance to bring to life FIFA's new vision for the future of football," said Decio de Maria, President of Mexico Football Federation and Co-Chair of the United Bid. "Together-in partnership with our Candidate Host Cities, the Member Associations, and FIFA-we will use this platform to unite the world around football and help create a new and sustainable blueprint for the future of FIFA World Cups."
DeMaria congratulated Miami soccer investors such as Robbie, Ross and now Beckham and his partners Jorge and Jose Mas and Marcelo Claure for their efforts.
"Miami being part of this project is a recognition of the investors for a long time and now more openly in investing in development of football in Miami," he said. "If someone had to be very excited, and receive an applause, it’s those investors that now are going to develop further football in the area of Miami."
MLS released the following statement: “The decision to host World Cup 2026 in Canada, Mexico and the United States is a testament to our three nations coming together for the United Bid, and a monumental step in our collective mission to further advance the game of soccer in North America. We congratulate all of those who worked tirelessly to bring the World Cup back to North America and thank the countries that voted for the United Bid, and for their belief in our vision for the future of the sport in our region. There is no doubt that World Cup 2026 will elevate the sport of soccer to entirely new levels and Major League Soccer is honored to be a part of this joyous day.”
The United Bid is expected to generate more than $14 billion in revenue and $11 billion in profits for FIFA, which will be shared with the 211 FIFA Member Associations, helping further develop and expand the game of football across the globe.