Cities hosting a World Cup game

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International soccer at M&T Bank stadium. Photo by Jake Stolzenbach.

FIFA, the worldwide authority on soccer, has started touring the United States in anticipation of june’s vote for the host of the 2026 World Cup. FIFA visits a few cities to see which city will be the main city of the 2026 world cup. The bid put in includes Mexico, United States, and Canada.

The US will host most of the games in the world cup. There are 23 cities that need to be cut down to 16. For Baltimore soccer fans this could be a once in a lifetime opportunity to watch World Cup soccer in person. If FIFA picks Baltimore or Washington DC to host a game, then it will be even easier for supporters to watch the game.

Most likely FIFA will only pick one of the two cities, so let’s look at the pros and cons of each city. Starting north to south, analyzing the; stadiums, hotels, airports, travel, and soccer culture. Keeping in mind that 2026 is 7 years away, and many things can change between not and then.

Washington DC has many stadium options one being Fedex field in Landover MD, and the other being Audi Field. Fedex Field isn’t in DC and it is not soccer specific. Not being soccer specific will require more accommodations to be made to the stadium to host the World Cup games, but the stadium seats 82,000. Audi field is a soccer specific stadium built for the DC United. The stadium is meant for soccer so it will have grass already laid. Players want grass instead of turf. Grass is more predictable with ball movement and doesn’t damage the skin like turf can.

DC soccer culture set the bar. DC United is one of the oldest clubs in Major League Soccer. The team is heavily supported, not just in DC, but in Baltimore as well. The team has been struggling for a few seasons, but the team still pulled in 41,000 in attendance in the last game of the 2017 season. Attendance won’t be a problem for a World Cup game in DC.

Dulles International and Reagan International are airports in DC. Traveling in DC is easier with the airports being in the city. Traffic in DC is terrible, but public transit in DC is popular and effective. Cabs and uber can help the people who don’t want to use public transit. DC has many cabs. Moving fans across the city is important, otherwise fans won’t be at the games.

A lot of Hotels are in DC. The city alone has 132 hotels which have a total of 31,673 hotel rooms. FIFA needs places for fans to stay. They know how important hotels are to the hosting a World Cup.

Baltimore soccer supporters will flock to DC to see the best of the best. DC will be filled with the Baltimoreans who love soccer. The drive from Baltimore to DC is under an hour. Baltimore sports when in DC, Orioles and Ravens, have a huge fan following, so its natural that the fans flock to DC.

It is sad, but Baltimore seems forgotten in the national sports landscape. It seems that Baltimore isn’t as important as DC. It wouldn’t be shocking if FIFA completely overlooked Baltimore, but that would be short sighted of FIFA.Soccer in Baltimore is alive and thriving.

The most likely stadium option is M&T Bank stadium, but like FedEx field, M&T Bank is home to an NFL team. This is makes it a non soccer specific stadium. This will cause issues with some players. M&T Bank has a capacity of over 71,000. The only other option is Camden yards, but with baseball being in season during the World Cup, that would be impossible.

Soccer culture is alive and well in Baltimore. International soccer is not a stranger to M&T Bank stadium, with 50,000 tickets being sold when the CONCACAF Gold Cup had games played in Baltimore. I was there and when the US played, it was electric. Just as loud as any Ravens game. Soccer culture should not be an issue to FIFA. If Baltimore will show up to DC, then they will definitely show up to Baltimore. Soccer is slowly becoming engrained in Baltimore’s DNA

BWI airport serves the Baltimore area. Located 15 minutes outside of Baltimore is a drawback, but public transit does offer easy access to the city. Baltimore’s traffic is not as severe as DC’s. Baltimore is located off of I-95, and provides easy access up and down the east coast. Baltimore has an extensive bus route, many of the routes tourists would use are free. Baltimore also has a strong presence of Lyft and Uber.

Trivago.com says has 170 hotels in Baltimore. That’s not the best source because it could include more than hotels in just the city, but it shows that there are plenty of hotel options in Baltimore. Fans need a place to stay for their trip to see the World Cup. FIFA is selective with the cities that are picked to host World Cup games.

Soccer supporters just want easy access to World Cup games. The World Cup is the  most viewed sporting event in the world. Watching the World Cup in person is one of the biggest goals for soccer fans to experience. FIFA has a massive job to pick the cities that will be the face of America if the United 2026 bid is elected. Washington DC or Baltimore are both great options that will allow soccer supporters in Baltimore to watch the World Cup live.

 

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Author: Jake Stolzenbach

Born with a mutated 7th chromosome, resulting in cystic fibrosis. Defining the odds is built into my DNA. Living in Maryland has allowed a love of the outdoors to flourish. Being in the woods or out on the water are ideal ways to spend my day. Sports are a massive aspect in my life, from soccer and football to golf and formula 1, I will watch practically any sport.

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