Chicago’s bid to host games during the 2026 World Cup looks strong.
The city has extensive experience with major conventions and international events. There also has been no shortage of prominent soccer games, notably during the 1994 World Cup and the 1999 Women’s World Cup. Infrastructure wouldn’t be an issue. Centrally located, Chicago is flanked by two international airports and has more than enough hotel rooms, restaurants and attractions to satisfy the influx of guests from around the world.
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With multiple universities and sports facilities, teams would have their pick of places to practice during their time in the area.
And as Kara Bachman stressed, Chicago is a diverse place with fans of any country that might play here.
“Whoever comes and plays here, they’re going to have a built-in fan base,” said Bachman, the executive director of the Chicago Sports Commission.
“Whatever country’s here, they’re going to be welcomed by ex-pats and the neighborhoods and really the whole city.”
Chicago is one of 25 U.S. cities — and 32 total — left in contention to host games as part of the United Bid Committee’s campaign to bring the tournament to North America. The United Bid Committee is a combined effort between the soccer federations of the United States, Canada and Mexico, and it’s expected to beat out Morocco to win the rights to the 2026 tournament.
“It’s really nice that there is the collaborative bid with the three nations,” Bachman said. “I think it’s just a good message, a good vibe. It’s a different and unique approach they haven’t really seen before, and that just brings an even greater positive impact.”
Perhaps the biggest intrigue surrounds which cities will host games during the first 48-team tournament. U.S. venues would stage 60 games, and Mexico and Canada would share the other 20.
Chicago’s bid appears to check all the boxes but has one potential blemish: Soldier Field’s capacity.
At 61,500, Soldier Field is the second-smallest U.S. facility in contention, ahead of only Salt Lake City’s Rice-Eccles Stadium (45,807), which is reportedly considering ways to add seating. But Bachman said there isn’t any concern that the seating capacity could lead to Chicago’s exclusion, though Soldier Field’s capacity disqualifies it from hosting the opening game or the final.
“We definitely qualify for the majority of games that are going to be available,” Bachman said.
The committee’s official bid will be sent to FIFA by March 16 with around 20 to 25 venues included, and candidate cities’ individual bids are due in early January. It’s expected that at least 12 locations will eventually serve as host cities, though the exact amount won’t be determined for years.
Follow me on Twitter @BrianSandalow.