Greg Cote

Miami will be World Cup host because these two men shared a dream and determination

Players from Germany hold aloft the world's most coveted sport trophy after winning the 2014 World Cup. The 2026 World Cup was awarded Wednesday to the U.S., Mexico and Canada, and Miami is expected to be among the host cities.
Players from Germany hold aloft the world's most coveted sport trophy after winning the 2014 World Cup. The 2026 World Cup was awarded Wednesday to the U.S., Mexico and Canada, and Miami is expected to be among the host cities. AP

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This was Joe Robbie's ahead-of-its-time dream in the 1980s, a vision nurtured and carried forward this decade by Stephen Ross. On Wednesday, more than 30 years after Robbie imagined it, the shared dream came real.

Miami will host World Cup soccer.

It isn't official, no. The host cities for the winning 2026 North American bid have not been finalized. But you can be assured the strong favorites will include the stadium Robbie built in 1987 with private funding, the one Ross bought and recently refurbished and rechristened Hard Rock Stadium.

Wednesday's FIFA vote in Moscow, ahead of the 2018 World Cup that begins Thursday in Russia, awarded the '26 gem-event to a joint bid by the United States, Canada and Mexico. It will be the 23rd men's World Cup and only the fourth held in North America, after Mexico hosted in 1970 and 1986, and the U.S. hosted in 1994.

It was interesting to see the "United Bid" so harmoniously successful in its soccer venture, considering President Donald Trump's relationship with his neighbors, threatening to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico and more recently seeming to feud with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

A united bid from the U.S., Canada and Mexico won the right to host the 2026 World Cup, FIFA announced Wednesday.

The U.S. national team failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, a surprise and huge disappointment. An embarrassment, even. For many Americans it has deflated interest in this World Cup, but Wednesday's vote provided some solace and salve. It may be tough to get too excited about something eight years away, but if anything merits that, it is the world's biggest sporting event, one that dwarfs the Super Bowl internationally, one on a global scale rivaled only (and that's arguable) by the Olympic Games.

The Rose Bowl in Pasadena was site of the '94 World Cup final as one of nine U.S. cities chosen to host matches, including Orlando and its Citrus Bowl. Fourteen other American stadiums were considered including Miami's Orange Bowl and then-Joe Robbie Stadium, but both venues were cut from the final bid.

It won't happen again.

Robbie, the Dolphins' founding father, had international soccer very much in mind when he conceived and had designed his stadium that opened for business in 1987. It was revolutionary thinking. The NASL's heydays were past. Major League Soccer did not exist. But Robbie envisioned a place for the global game in his stadium — in Miami.

Soccer star David Beckham talks about the importance of hosting the World Cup tournament. The 2026 World Cup was awarded to a joint-bid between the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Ross, current Dolphins owner, embraced the idea. He poured millions into major stadium improvements designed to lure events like Super Bowls and the World Cup. In 2013 he founded the International Champions Cup tournament that renews this July 20 through Aug. 12.

I asked Ross once why Miami seems to attract the best matches of any ICC host city.

"I own the event," he deadpanned with a little wink of a smile.

In this year's ICC, Hard Rock will host Manchester City vs. Bayern Munich on July 28 and Manchester United vs. Real Madrid three nights later.

Since failing to land a host's role in the '94 World Cup, Miami has become a destination for major international matches of the highest order. Just last summer Hard Rock hosted the first-ever El Clasico on American soil as Barcelona and Lionel Messi defeated storied rival Real Madrid 3-2 before a capacity-plus 66,014 soccer fans.

Now, Wednesday's vote puts World Cup matches on the horizon for Miami, and I'd be shocked if one of America's most diverse, international cities and a stadium so carefully designed with futbol in mind didn't get major matches. Hard Rock, in fact, should be one of a few select venues under consideration to host the championship match.

The new U.S. Soccer president, Carlos Cordeiro, who is from Miami, deserves great credit for being a pointman in the winning North American bid, and surely he'll be a force in his hometown hosting matches.

Stephen Ross made this happen for Miami, though. But only because Joe Robbie dreamed it first.

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