The world's biggest sporting event is returning to the United States and North Texas will likely host some games.
A joint bid by the United States, Mexico and Canada won the right to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup on Wednesday. The announcement was celebrated locally by soccer fans and city leaders.
The Cotton Bowl in Dallas and AT&T Stadium in Arlington are two potential host sites for games. It seems likely that a major late-round game will be held at the Dallas Cowboys’ home stadium, but the United Bid committee has yet to finalize which cities and stadiums will host the matches.
“Dallas is an ideal host city for the 2026 World Cup and I'm confident that as we move to the next stage of the selection process the world will see what we have long known, Dallas is ready. More specifically, the Cotton Bowl, Fair Park and South Dallas are ready," said Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings.
The Cotton Bowl was a venue when the United States last hosted the World Cup in 1994. Dallas was also one of the sites of the International Broadcast Center, something it would like to host again in 2026.
FC Dallas owner Dan Hunt said North Texas and the U.S. is even better equipped this time around because of the continued growth of soccer throughout the country. Major League Soccer was launched two years after the successful 1994 World Cup.
“We have come light years in the game of soccer. First off, the players we have produced, if you look at the next generation of players, we have the greatest generations coming up and they're 22 and younger,” Hunt said.
The good news came a day before the start of the 2018 World Cup and was welcomed by American soccer officials who are still reeling after the men’s national team failed to qualify for the first time since 1986.
FC Dallas player Kellyn Acosta would likely have been a part of a 2018 U.S. World Cup squad.
“It was a huge disappointment, we have a sour taste in our mouths,” Acosta said of the qualifying failure. “But in eight years it'll be here.”
The hope is a North American World Cup will inspire the United States team to improve and be ready.
“It awakens the perception of the country to the sport, developing the players, showing the world the love we have for the sport,” said FC Dallas coach Oscar Pareja.
FC Dallas COO Jimmy Smith says Dallas has the opportunity to host five or six teams for a month during the World Cup.
"Teams want kind of a home base, if you will, where they come a couple weeks early,” he said. “They train and they get used to the climate."
FIFA will likely make selections as to which cities will host which matches in late 2020 or early 2021.
Until then, Smith says the best thing DFW can do to win the bid is to continue investing in soccer and begin by building more youth soccer fields.
"This will just enable us to have a better platform for doing that,” he said.
The United Bid beat out Morocco, 134 votes to 65. North America is optimistically promising to deliver $14 billion in revenue, while the tournament won't require major construction work required on the planned stadiums, all of which already exist.
The U.S. proposed staging 60 out of the 80 games in 2026, when 16 teams will be added to the tournament, leaving Canada and Mexico with ten fixtures each. But FIFA President Gianni Infantino suggested the split of games could change.
Team USA is not competing in the World Cup this year. There is hope that by having the World Cup in North America that it will inspire Team USA to improve and more young people to play soccer.