Watch: What impact will the 2026 World Cup have on soccer in North America?

The first FIFA World Cup in the United States in 1994 helped birth Major League Soccer.

When the World Cup returns here in 2026, as part of a unique United bid between the United States, Canada and Mexico, U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro believes the event will be a “lightning rod” to make soccer the “preeminent sport in North America.”

“We believe that soccer or football will become the preeminent sport in North America,” Cordeiro said. “I’m not just speaking for the U.S., I think I speak for Canada.”

In a conference call with reporters just hours after the FIFA vote that awarded 2026 hosting rights to North America's United bid, Cordeiro said he expects the World Cup to vastly increase participation among kids in the United States.

Commissioner Don Garber United 2026 Statement_v4

“We believe this event will become a lightning rod, will become transformational for the sport as kids who are now eight, 10, 12 years old can all dream of potentially playing for a national team,” he said. “By in large, we need more kids, boys and girls, in the United States playing soccer inside the umbrella of the Federation, we don’t have enough of them. Three-and-a-half or four million registered kids, we believe there are many more out there who could be playing with us.”

As for challenging baseball, basketball and gridiron football, Cordeiro admits there is a lot of competition. The same is true in Canada, with ice hockey considered the national pastime.

But serving as a co-host for a “world-class event, the scope of which we haven’t seen in our country,” according to Canada Soccer president Steven Reed, could change things.

“Ultimately our focus is to grow our sport or our game and to provide the impetus for that. There’s a strength in numbers in our country where we’ve got over one million registered players in a country that only has over 30 million in total population,” Reed said. “It’s one of the strongest sports, one of the largest sports and I think we can become the preeminent sport in our country. That’s the legacy we would love to see.”