The 10 United States host cities for the 2026 FIFA World Cup remain in flux, though one definite is that Chicago – host city for the 1994 opening match at Soldier Field – won't make the final cut.
That was confirmed via a conference call Monday with FIFA Chief Tournaments & Events Officer Colin Smith and former U.S. Soccer CEO Dan Flynn, who spoke in broader terms ahead of Tuesday's virtual candidate host city workshop.
As for when the list will be narrowed in – it stretches from Boston and New York to Los Angeles and Seattle, among others – Smith said a date can't be provided. They're hoping to start touring sites in late 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted matters.
"We initially planned that we would finalize the selection process in the Spring of ," Smith said. "Now, obviously, that was based on us having started this in March and conducting at least, I would say, two sets of inspection visits throughout this year in order to finalize that process. Obviously, now we've had to delay that. It's very difficult to give a final date, because when we don't know when the start date is.
"The start date of the workshop is tomorrow, but it's not clear yet when we will be able to come and conduct those inspection visits. I would say that we need a few more weeks yet to see how things develop and then I would say Q3, beginning of Q4 this year we would have a better idea as to the inspection visit schedule and then the time needed for the selection."
As for the final decision, Flynn said FIFA will make the call, though U.S. Soccer does have input. It was also noted that 80,000 is the minimum fan capacity for the eventual final.
Flynn, referencing what the 1994 World Cup did for soccer in America, believes even greater potential awaits in 2026. The US, alongside co-hosts Mexico and Canada, will have robust leagues and infrastructure that can act as a catalyst.
"We've got 20-plus years of experience since hosting '94, if you will," Flynn said. "I think it takes on a greater role than it certainly did in '94, but I also think there's just greater opportunities. Our sport is at a different level than it was pre-'94."