Four years from now, the World Cup will arrive in North America. And on Thursday we learned which cities will play host to the 48-team tournament. FIFA chose the 16 cities that will play host to the 2026 World Cup, and while there are some notable snubs (looking at you, Washington, D.C.), all of those chosen will have something unique to offer visitors.
Here’s The Athletic’s guide to the 2026 host cities across the United States, Mexico and Canada. Cities listed in alphabetical order.
Venue: Mercedes-Benz Stadium opened in 2017 as a shared venue for the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons and Major League Soccer’s Atlanta United. It can seat over 70,000 fans and keep them entertained with an incredible array of amenities both inside and outside the stadium. The Benz, as it’s referred to locally, has a retractable pinwheel-style roof that accentuates its modern design. This venue has hosted the Mexico men’s national team on two occasions and will do so again on August 31 for a friendly against Paraguay.
Why Atlanta? The Southern city has quickly emerged as a legitimate soccer hotbed in the U.S., mainly because of the early success of Atlanta United. The club has broken MLS attendance records and is currently ranked eighth in the world in terms of average match attendance, according to Atlanta United president Darren Eales. Atlanta, home to CNN and Turner, a WarnerMedia company, is also a candidate to be selected as the location for the World Cup’s International Broadcast Center. Atlanta hosted the 1996 Summer Olympics, so a World Cup won’t be too big to handle.
Transportation/infrastructure: To be clear, Atlanta traffic is awful. It doesn’t matter what time of day it is, you can find yourself stuck in gridlock. But there is the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA, as locals call it) that includes bus routes and a rapid transit system that starts at the airport and drops passengers off just steps away from Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
What needs to be done? Mercedes-Benz Stadium has an artificial turf surface, so that’s truly the one specification that must be addressed. “We need to transform the pitch surface into an absolute world-class grass turf pitch,” said Colin Smith, FIFA’s chief tournaments and events officer during a visit to Atlanta last fall. AMB Sports and Entertainment CEO Steve Cannon, who oversees the daily operations of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, confidently told The Athletic in September that the process was merely “a technical problem that will be solved.”
Fun fact: Like any other global city, Atlanta has a number of tourist traps for international visitors. Take the World of Coca Cola, for example. Atlanta is also rich in culture and diversity, though. The city is the birthplace of civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr. Visitors can tour his birth home as well as Ebenezer Baptist Church, where MLK was a pastor until his assassination in 1968. One bit of advice though: don’t ever say HOTlanta. Nobody says that.
Venue: Boston — technically Foxborough — has been host to multiple World Cups before, both men’s and women’s, in the ‘90s and early ‘00s. Gillette Stadium isn’t the newest venue on the list, but it is about to go through a refresh with a giant new video board and other improvements in the works. Home to the New England Revolution, Gillette has also hosted a number of international friendlies, though neither the U.S. men’s or women’s national team has played there since 2015 due to the artificial surface. In the bid book, the gross capacity for the venue is listed as 70,000, though the forecasted capacity for a World Cup match is 60,335.
Why Boston? Robert Kraft. The Revolution and Patriots owner was the honorary chairman of the 2026 bid, and he leaned on many of his existing relationships — including one with Donald Trump — to ensure support across the political spectrum for hosting the tournament. Yes, there’s history here for Boston going back to 1994, but that same history applies to Kraft, as well.
Transportation/infrastructure: Notably, in the bid book, the map of Boston presented doesn’t even show Gillette Stadium, which is not very public transportation friendly, though the commuter rail runs special trains to the stadium from both Boston and Providence, Rhode Island. Car travel will be key; hopefully folks will be prepared for the long waits in and out of the parking lots. There are a few hotels at Patriot Place, but Boston is more likely to act as the actual hospitality hub. Again, while traffic will be the main complaint, it’s not new for the city. It will be terrible though.
What needs to be done? The playing surface will be the main item here, with Kraft making promises in 2021 to install grass for the games, as well as to knock out sideline seating for field dimension considerations. All the promised additional bus and train services will need to come through, too.
Fun fact: Yes, if you stay in downtown Boston, you will pass a Dunkin’ on roughly every block. This is not a bad thing. If you go full history buff and follow the Freedom Trail through downtown, take a small detour and pay your respects to NBA legend Bill Russell at his statue outside of City Hall, swing through Faneuil Hall for some chowder, and then head to the North End for a cannoli (there’s a correct answer for Mike’s vs. Modern — choose wisely).
Venue: AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, affectionately (?) known as Jerry World, after Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, whose team is the stadium’s primary tenant. Though it has hosted over 100,000 for American football, the capacity will likely be around 85,000 for soccer.
Why Dallas? It’s one of the most populous cities in the United States and has a demonstrated passion for soccer, serving as a comfortable home away from home for the Mexican national team for many years. The area also has an abundance of training facilities and smaller stadiums, making it an ideal home base for visiting teams, particularly any that may need to split their time between the U.S. and Mexico.
Transportation/infrastructure: AT&T Stadium will require a drive, so it’s likely that organizers will need to organize some sort of shuttle service, or invest in some other form of public transport.
What needs to be done? AT&T Stadium has hosted plenty of soccer events in the past, but the surface there is artificial turf. The Cotton Bowl, by contrast, has a natural grass surface and has already proven it can host soccer. So while Jerry World probably has the upper hand on account of its newness (and importantly given the midsummer Dallas heat, its roof).
Fun fact: It’s the largest inland metropolitan area without a navigable link to the sea.
Venue: The Estadio Akron is the home of C.D. Guadalajara, or Chivas, one of Mexico’s biggest clubs. It has a capacity of just under 50,000. The stadium was inaugurated in 2010 and shortly thereafter hosted a friendly between Manchester United and Chivas to showcase United’s star signing that season, Mexico’s Javier “Chicharito” Hernández.
Why Guadalajara? It’s a major metropolis and one of Mexico’s most recognized footballing cities. Home to Chivas and reigning two-time Liga MX champions Atlas, Guadalajara is historically known for its sporting tradition. However, sectors of the Atlas fanbase were involved in the stadium violence that took place in Querétaro in March. It was a stain for Mexican football, and at the time, a threat to Guadalajara’s chances to remain a 2026 host city.
Transportation/infrastructure: For a city of over 4 million people, Guadalajara boasts an effective mass transit system. Taxis, a modern trolley transportation and what the city refers to as Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) keeps masses moving throughout the city.
What needs to be done? Crowd control. Liga MX and the Mexican Football Federation have instituted Fan ID measures to curtail stadium violence around Mexico. Guadalajara-based fans from Atlas have been singled out as part of an ongoing problem of gang affiliation and supporters’ groups that must be eradicated from the game.
Fun fact: The stadium’s surface was originally a turf field that was widely panned in Mexico, by fans, players and pundits. The controversy forced Chivas to install a natural grass surface.
Venue: NRG Stadium, which opened in 2002 and has a capacity of just over 72,000. NRG is the regular home of the NFL’s Houston Texans, but it has hosted a ton of international soccer matches, including Gold Cup knockout matches, Copa America Centenario matches, and numerous friendlies. It has a retractable roof.
Why Houston: It’s the fourth-most populous city in the United States, with a large and growing international community. Like Dallas and Kansas City, there’s plenty of space to build infrastructure, and there are numerous universities and professional-level facilities that can host World Cup teams.
Transportation/infrastructure: Houston’s light rail has a stop right next to the stadium, and that same line runs right into Downtown. It’s hard to overemphasize just how huge a metro area Houston is…if they need to build anything else, chances are very high there will be space for it.
What needs to be done? Once again, it’s turf. Interestingly, NRG Stadium used to have a natural grass surface, but the Texans elected to go synthetic during the 2015 season. So we know it’s possible to have grass there, but getting it to be up to international soccer quality is another conversation.
Fun fact: The city’s international population means that Houston has one of the best culinary scenes of any city in the United States, with great food of all different types available throughout the metro.
Venue: Arrowhead Stadium, home of the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs. Capacity of just over 76,000. It has a natural grass field and last played host to a non-friendly international soccer match in 2001, when the USMNT beat Costa Rica 1-0 in a World Cup qualifier. Arrowhead will be the oldest American stadium at the 2026 World Cup, having opened in 1972 (but it has aged nicely).
Why Kansas City? The city’s decade-plus of consistent support for MLS’ Sporting Kansas City likely played a role, as did the city’s central location and top-class facilities where teams can train. It’s easy to imagine a couple teams making Kansas City their home base, considering the comparatively short flight times to every other host city.
Transportation/infrastructure: This is the big sticking point that would likely have prevented KC from being a host city had they missed out. Arrowhead’s location well outside of downtown will be a hurdle local organizers will need to compensate for, but an incoming World Cup could force local leaders to invest in public transportation, which has been sorely lacking in the metro for generations. The downtown area is up-and-coming, with several hotel options and an ideal spot for a fan zone at the Power and Light District.
What needs to be done? Aside from the aforementioned public transportation infrastructure, not much. Despite its age, Arrowhead is in great shape on the field, with one of the best natural surfaces in all of American sports. A $375 million renovation was completed in 2010.
Fun fact: The Kansas City metro area straddles the Kansas/Missouri state line, but the main hub is Kansas City, Missouri. There is also a Kansas City, Kansas just across the spot where the Missouri and Kansas Rivers intersect. Many people live in the suburbs of Kansas City, Missouri, which are in Kansas, but are not Kansas City, Kansas. There is an oft-used road in Kansas City called State Line road. It’s exactly what it sounds like. The city boasts the best barbecue in the United States, a fact which is both fun and not up for debate.
Venue: SoFi Stadium opened in 2020 and is expandable up to 100,000 seats. The stadium hosts two NFL teams and was the home of the Super Bowl in 2022. It’ll host its first soccer matches in August. While the nearby Rose Bowl has the history (having hosted the 1994 and 1999 finals), it’s SoFi Stadium which is being viewed as a potential venue for the 2026 final.
Why Los Angeles? While most bidding cities are working to ensure inclusion, Los Angeles is one of the few which would almost have to work harder not to be a front-runner. It’s the second-largest city in the country, and has as much cultural caché as any city in the world. Its climate makes it ideal for summer matches, while it also boasts significant diversity compared to most North American cities.
Transportation/infrastructure: If Hollywood is the best-known LA trademark, its traffic may earn second billing (even informing the name of the rivalry between the Los Angeles Galaxy and Los Angeles FC). Its transit system is efficient but not entirely robust: getting to SoFi from downtown LA is just under a 12 mile drive, and one hour on public transit.
What needs to be done? Having lived through the city selection process in 1994, Alan Rothenberg cautions that Los Angeles may not have been the lock it appeared on the surface. “Even to this moment, there’s calls going on all day long trying to sort it out,” he told the Associated Press. “There will be discussions between the LA host committee and FIFA right up almost to the moment of the announcement. The costs of LA are a huge part of the difficulty.”
But who are we kidding? The World Cup wasn’t going to happen without the City of Angels’ involvement.
Fun fact: Amphibian enthusiasts may have reservations about attending games in Los Angeles. One Los Angeles law prohibits people from licking toads, after some teenagers found hallucinogenic effects from tonguing the Colorado River Toad.
Venue: Alongside Wembley Stadium and Brazil’s Maracaná, the Estadio Azteca is one of football’s great cathedrals. Home to Club América and nickname El Coloso de Santa Úrsula, the over 100,000 seat monolith has seen two of the greatest-ever players lift World Cup trophies. Pelé won the World Cup with Brazil in 1970 and Diego Armando Maradona did so with Argentina in 1986. The Azteca will further its historic place within the sport when it becomes the venue to a World Cup on three occasions.
Why Mexico City? As co-host, Mexico’s biggest city was a lock to play a big part in 2026. Other than the Estadio Azteca, Mexico City is home to the national team’s sprawling training facility, and one of the world’s most populated urban centers. Outside of the U.S. host cities, expect Mexico City to become a hub during North America’s biggest ever sporting event.
What needs to be done? There are plans for the Azteca to undergo a number of stadium renovations beginning in 2023. The stadium’s revitalization has been mired in controversy, though. Local residents of the Santa Úrsula neighborhood that surrounds the stadium have protested what is being dubbed Proyecto Estadio Azteca. Their angst stems from the local government’s promise of a sport-driven remodel that is disguised as a costly commercial endeavor, that will include the construction of hotels, shopping malls and parking lots.
Fun fact: Not only is Mexico City the most populated city in the Western Hemisphere, the city also boasts a world record 180 museums.
Venue: Hard Rock Stadium isn’t huge (capacity: 67,518) and isn’t close to the city center or beaches, but it was built to FIFA specifications and has undergone massive renovations in recent years to improve its overall look and feel. It’s also hosted numerous soccer matches, with sell-out crowds filling the stadium over the years to see South American national teams and various club friendlies. There’s also the big-event experience: the stadium has hosted six Super Bowls, the Miami Open tennis tournament and, most recently, the Miami Grand Prix Formula One race. They’re shooting for more, with Miami gunning to host the World Cup final.
The drawbacks? No retractable roof, which could be an issue with the unrelenting heat and frequent thunderstorms of a South Florida summer, and poor public transport to the venue.
Why Miami? It’s Miami. The stadium is solid, there are training facilities and hotels aplenty and it’s got more than enough glitz and glamor to dazzle FIFA execs, traveling fans and participating teams. The global city is also home to a huge Latin American diaspora and is a marquee destination for millions of international travelers looking to come to the U.S. It wasn’t as much of a lock as New York or LA, but it was pretty damn close.
Transportation/infrastructure: Public transit is lacking. Miami is very much a driving city. The airport is already one of the busiest in the country, however, and is used to handling massive amounts of international arrivals. Miami International isn’t always the calmest experience, but they should be reasonably equipped for the crowds that will come for the World Cup. Hotels, of course, will be no issue.
What needs to be done? It doesn’t seem like much. The stadium is ready-made, there are plenty of training facilities and, while public transit is lacking, the rest of the infrastructure is built out.
Fun fact: The main reason Miami didn’t host any games in the 1994 World Cup was because of scheduling conflicts at Hard Rock Stadium with the then-Florida Marlins, who have since become one of the objectively saddest teams in all of North American professional sports. Missing out on Baggio for Benito Santiago. I love a catcher who threw out would-be base stealers from his knees, but that’s a bad trade.
Venue: Monterrey’s Estadio BBVA is an absolute beauty. The stadium seats 51,000 fans and its backdrop is among the most stunning stadium visuals around the world. Nicknamed “The Steel Giant,” expect the mountainous aerial shots of this modern venue to be a centerpiece of the 2026 World Cup.
Why Monterrey? The stadium was inaugurated in 2015, which made Monterrey a prime candidate to host games in 2026. Monterrey is also home to Rayados, a Liga MX annual title contender, and a high-spending club, so the sporting infrastructure is already in place.
Transportation/infrastructure: Taxis, modern metro trains, and buses shuttle visitors and locals throughout this bustling city.
What needs to be done? Not much. The Estadio BBVA will be just 11 years old when the World Cup kicks off in 2026. It’s already considered one of North America’s most modern venues.
Fun fact: Monterrey locals are referred to as regios, or regals. The city is also home to one of Mexico’s biggest football rivalries. Tigres UANL and CF Monterrey battle for regional superiority.
New York/New Jersey
Venue: MetLife Stadium, which opened in 2010 and has a capacity of 82,500. The stadium was built with adjustable stands so the field can meet FIFA regulations for soccer, and though the regular surface is artificial turf, grass has been laid down in the past without issue.
Why New York City? It’s the media capital of the United States, the country’s most populous city, and one of its two major cultural hubs along with Los Angeles. It’s a truly global metropolis of nearly 9 million and boasts a distinctive and influential culture all its own. It has long been considered one of the world’s preeminent tourist destinations. There is also good pizza.
Transportation/infrastructure: Within the five boroughs, it’s good. Public transportation is plentiful, there are plenty of hotels, and the city is used to hosting tourists. Getting to the stadium, which is located in New Jersey, isn’t the easiest proposition – trips there usually require a bus or train ride from Manhattan. Frankly, the experience of doing so almost always sucks, and the glacial pace at which the NYC area actually improves public infrastructure means it isn’t likely to get better between now and 2026. Start your journey early (or just stay in New Jersey).
What needs to be done? Very little. The World Cup was always going to be in New York, and it was always going to be at MetLife. Along with LA, it’s an odds-on favorite to host the final.
Fun fact: Even old New York was once New Amsterdam. Why they changed it, I can’t say. People just liked it better that way.
Venue: Lincoln Financial Field is home to the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, but its first event upon opening in 2003 was a friendly between Manchester United and Barcelona, so soccer is very much a part of its history. With a capacity of just under 70,000, “The Linc” has also hosted everything from Copa America Centenario matches to the CONCACAF Gold Cup and a number of other club and USMNT/USWNT friendlies over the years.
Why Philadelphia? Once the nation’s capital, Philly is rich with history and arguably the most passionate sports fans in the country. The city has regularly hosted massive events and its geographical location (40 million people are within 150 miles of the city — the most of any in the U.S.) relatively close to fellow hosts Toronto, NY/NJ and Boston creates a nice hub for teams and fans. But the timing of this World Cup couldn’t be more perfect for a celebration in the city. Philadelphia likes to call itself the “birthplace of America” and 2026 will mark the U.S.’s 250th anniversary, so it will pretty much be parties on top of parties in the city of brotherly love that year.
Transportation/infrastructure: Lincoln Financial Field is located in South Philadelphia’s stadium complex, which features dedicated public transportation stops and food/entertainment options. Driving in from outside of the city will be a nightmare, but once fans arrive, they can gorge themselves on cheesesteaks and crab fries, so the experience should balance out.
What needs to be done? Polish the Rocky statue? Add a few lanes to the Schuylkill expressway? Launch a public service campaign to alert foreign visitors to the existence of Gritty? Maybe. Otherwise, Philadelphia is ready.
Fun fact: Philadelphia has over 4,000 murals spread out across the city.
San Francisco Bay Area
Venue info: Levi’s Stadium was opened in 2014 to host the NFL’s 49ers. Located in Santa Clara, it can seat 70,000 fans and has a Bermuda grass field. It has played host to 17 soccer matches in its brief history, prominently featuring during the 2016 Copa América Centenario (including Chile’s 7-0 quarterfinal drubbing of Mexico) and the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup Final. The Bay Area is also under consideration to host the 2031 and 2033 Rugby World Cups.
Why the Bay Area? San Francisco isn’t known for its soccer history despite hosting World Cup games in 1994 and 1999. The market struggles to sustain professional soccer, most recently the second-division Deltas, which won the league title and folded after a single season. Despite this, it’s worth noting that San Francisco is one of two cities (along with LA) suggested by tournament organizers to host the final draw. San Jose, located closer to Levi’s, has its own lengthy history in soccer, including generations of Earthquakes teams and strong grassroots scene.
The Bay Area is a popular tourism destination along the Pacific Ocean and roughly 60% of residents are Hispanic, Asian, African American, or Pacific Islander.
Transportation/infrastructure: This is one particular area of strength for the Bay Area. Levi’s Stadium sits along the Valley Transportation Authority light rail, also having access via Amtrak and local shuttle buses. The stadium is also near the San Tomas Aquino Trail, a paved multi-use trail spanning over 100 continuous miles.
What needs to be done? Levi’s Stadium has won two LEED Gold Certifications for its construction and operations/maintenance, the first NFL stadium to do the double. Still most questions about its viability have less to do with the venue and more with the sprawled nature of the Bay Area. While there are plenty of accommodations near the stadium, it may not be an ideal location for a large number of visitors needing places to stay.
Fun fact: While fortune cookies are a staple of takeout Chinese cuisine, they were invented in San Francisco — by the Hagiwara family, who immigrated stateside from Japan.
Venue: Lumen Field, home of the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks, MLS’s Seattle Sounders, and the NWSL’s OL Reign. Capacity is 68,740. Opened in 2002, Lumen was built with soccer in mind, and the sight lines from just about any seat in the house are pretty good.
Why Seattle? The city has embraced soccer to such a degree that it can now fairly be considered to be among the capitals of the sport in the United States. Lumen Field is huge, good for soccer, and has a convenient downtown location. The city itself is great to walk around in the summer, with plenty for visitors to do regardless of where they’re coming from.
Transportation/infrastructure: Lumen Field is located an easy walk from Downtown, with Pioneer Square being a popular starting point for Sounders fans’ march to home matches. There is ample public transportation all around the area; MLS Cups held in the city have gone off without a hitch.
What needs to be done? Once again, it’s a question of turf. Lumen Field has an artificial surface, so sod will need to be brought in in order to bring it up to FIFA standards. Given the stadium is entirely outdoors, though, it shouldn’t be much of an issue provided it’s laid down early enough and maintained correctly.
Fun fact: The picturesque view outside of Frasier Crane’s luxurious penthouse apartment on the show “Frasier” is not physically possible.
Venue: BMO Field is the home of Toronto FC and more recently, the first-choice venue for Canadian men’s national team games. The downtown stadium has decent sight lines, including of Lake Ontario, but with a current capacity of 30,000 for soccer games, it will need to be expanded to meet FIFA’s requirements for hosting World Cup matches. That’s a priority for Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, the venue operators and owners of TFC, and it’s one that, by all accounts, they’re enthused about. The pitch itself was upgraded in 2019 to a hybrid surface and has held up well.
Why Toronto? The biggest city in Canada was always a lock. Not only is Toronto a great city to watch the World Cup in, with a diverse, multicultural population that sees smaller communities dedicating street parties and the like to World Cup viewings, but there’s proper training facilities that TFC use which will presumably be used by World Cup teams. When the city shakes off the shackles of long, oppressive winters, the proximity to Lake Ontario and the multitude of dining and entertainment options makes it one of the best places to be in the summer.
Transportation/infrastructure: BMO Field is just slightly west of downtown Toronto proper, but is one stop away from the city’s central Union Station by rail. Streetcars also service the station, though that could change with the added traffic. The stadium is also accessible via car, with the Gardiner Expressway and Lake Shore Boulevard very close. If it were me, I’d suggest making use of the Martin Goodman Trail right along Lake Ontario to cycle to and from downtown to BMO Field.
What needs to be done? At least 10,000 seats will need to be added to BMO Field.
Fun fact: Concrete jungle? Not Toronto. With over 11 million trees planted in the city, more than one-quarter of Toronto is under tree canopy cover. Breathe easy, visitors.
Venue: With a capacity of over 54,000, BC Place is the third-largest stadium in Canada. It’s home to MLS’s Vancouver Whitecaps and the CFL’s BC Lions. (As an aside, I can’t wait for visitors to learn about Canada’s football, with bigger endzones, more players and more rouges) The stadium previously hosted the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Why Vancouver? It’s arguably the most beautiful city in North America. Surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and mountains, it’s sometimes easy to forget you’re in a city.
The province of British Columbia had originally pulled itself out of the running to host games citing cost concerns, but Vancouver was then put back in the running with a successful late application in April. The goal was to boost tourism after the pandemic, and hosting World Cup games should help that.
Transportation/infrastructure: BC Place is located in downtown Vancouver, with a stop on the city’s SkyTrain outside the venue. There are major roads nearby to get people in and out of the city.
What needs to be done? The biggie is the turf inside BC Place. It will need to be replaced by a grass surface.
Fun fact: Since we’re sticking with the park theme in Canada, you can’t complete
your yer visit to Vancouver without a stop at the Dude Chilling Park sign in east Vancouver. There is a reclining, or chilling, figure installation in the park and a local artist put up a sign designed just as Vancouver parks are calling the park “Dude Chilling Park.” Though the city tried to take it down, enough signatures were obtained via petition to keep it up, making it a local landmark. That’s civic activism.
(Photo: Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports)