Does Seattle have what it takes to host the 2026 World Cup? | KUOW News and Information

Does Seattle have what it takes to host the 2026 World Cup?

Jun 13, 2018

Seattle can expect some tough questions in its bid to be one of 10 U.S. cities to host men's World Cup soccer games in 2026:

Is it close enough for easy travel to other host cities?

Long distance travel was a concern at the last world cup in Brazil, particularly for the U.S. men’s national team. They had to travel thousands of miles before being knocked out.

But Seattle leaders say the fact that they live in the biggest city in the region could give them an edge — after all, there are so many soccer fans already here.

Can the city's infrastructure handle a global crowd? Local civic and sports leaders say they’ve got this, but it's been a long time since Seattle’s hosted a global sports party this big (think Goodwill Games, 1990).

Would the turf at CenturyLink Field be good enough? FIFA, soccer’s governing body, requires real grass, which can been laid over the artificial turf at CenturyLink field. 

They did it when Argentina and other teams played here a few years ago for the Copa America Centenario, but some critics say that solution’s just not good enough for the world’s biggest sporting event.

But beyond those, there’s the big question: Can Seattle and King County afford the World Cup?

Unknown costs were a big reason why several cities including Chicago, Minneapolis and Vancouver withdrew from the competition to host in 2026. There are no details yet on what this event would cost the region.

Seattle mayoral spokesperson Stephanie Formas said it would cost “about as much as a Super Bowl,” but pointed out that the event would also generate money through tourism. But with the city struggling to address a range of existing issues, from homelessness to traffic, costs could be a big concern.  

FIFA designated hosting the 2026 men's tournament to a three-nation group: the U.S., Canada and Mexico. (This year’s tourney starts in Russia on Thursday, without the teams from the U.S. and Canada, which failed to qualify. )

Civic and sports leaders appeared at a news conference in Pioneer Square Wednesday to boost Seattle’s bid. They all said the city is ready on all counts.

“Let's bring FIFA and the World Cup to Seattle,” Mayor Jenny Durkan said.

King County Executive Dow Constantine delivered a politically tinged message.

“At a time when some parts of the nation and of Europe are seeking to become more insular, Seattle and King County are looking outward, are looking to the world,” he said. “And we want the world to come here, to visit us here, in 2026.”

About 16 U.S.cities are said to be in the running to host the World Cup, from Los Angeles to Boston. Ten of these will join cities in Canada and Mexico to host the games.

FIFA is expected to make its decision in the next couple of years.

Correction:  6/14/18 9:30 am.  The original version of this article incorrectly stated when the U.S. Men's National Team was eliminated from the World Cup in Brazil.  The team was defeated by Belgium to be eliminated in the "Round of 16."