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Los Angeles, San Diego among cities in contention to host 2026 World Cup

Fierce competition, although SoCal seems a solid bet.

US, Canadian And Mexican Soccer Federations Make Major Announcement Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The committee behind the three-country CONCACAF 2026 World Cup bid revealed the initial list of 44 cities and 49 stadiums on Tuesday, with Southern California part of the candidate cities.

Both Los Angeles and San Diego were part of the list for the bid, a joint effort between Canada, the United States and Mexico. Given the infrastructure, economic power and possibilities present in the U.S., they look set to host the bulk of the games, should the bid successfully win the the right to host the 2026 World Cup (the only other official bid is from Morocco). Three cities in Mexico and seven in Canada are on this initial list, compared to 37 in the U.S.

Locally, Los Angeles has three candidate stadiums in the initial list: The LA Coliseum, the Rose Bowl, and the planned Los Angeles Rams stadium in Hollywood Park, which is yet to be built (but should be done well before 2026). Two of those stadiums are old but have a rich history of hosting soccer games, including the World Cup, and the other could be the kind of fancy venue that FIFA would go gaga over.

The big surprise, however, was San Diego’s representative venue being Qualcomm Stadium. While it is the only existing venue in San Diego County that would fit FIFA requirements, few expect it will still be around in 2026, even with the uncertainty surrounding the site at the moment. Perhaps Qualcomm is a wink-wink placeholder for the future MLS stadium OR the proposed NFL stadium that FS Investors, the group behind San Diego’s MLS expansion bid, have mooted. But given the considerable uncertainty surrounding just the MLS project, it’s far from a likely possibility at the moment.

And Qualcomm is going downhill fast. It’s not even as old as the Coliseum and Rose Bowl, but in working at Qualcomm during the Gold Cup in July, support infrastructure, both the literal building and virtual tools like telecommunications, were falling apart and had no support. It’s understandable that the city of San Diego doesn’t want to sink money into a white elephant with no NFL team in town anymore, but they can’t realistically use it as a World Cup venue in nine years without millions of dollars of renovations, barring an actual new stadium.

So this is a preliminary list, with the candidates culled to 20-25 cities by the time the formal bid to FIFA is submitted. And even those cities may not necessarily be guaranteed hosting venues, as the release says the minimum is 12 cities will serve as hosts. One expects more than that considering the 2026 World Cup is expected to feature 48 teams, but competition will likely be fierce to be one of the cities to host World Cup games. It seems like a good chance one of the Southern California venues will host, but time will tell if that happens and which one(s).

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