As the 2026 FIFA World Cup host city selection nears, a dedicated team of Washington, D.C. officials is determined to bring the tournament back to the nation’s capital, which is no stranger to the beautiful game.
On Sept. 19, 24 delegates from FIFA and US soccer toured various sites around the city where prospective events would be hosted, including FedEx Field and the National Mall. They were joined by FIFA’s Colin Smith; Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football President Victor Montagliani; D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D); and Mexican Ambassador to the United States Esteban Moctezuma, as well as members of DC2026, the organization spearheading efforts to make D.C. a host city for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.
The 2026 FIFA World Cup is set to be hosted in three countries: the United States, Mexico and Canada. The District is one of 17 cities in contention for 11 venues in these three nations.
The importance of the united bid by the three North American nations was emphasized by Moctezuma.
“Today we have the opportunity to create new memories as part of the historic multinational bid,” Moctezuma said in a Sept. 19 press conference at the International Spy Museum in D.C.
The District is a storied American soccer region. It has hosted matches at three prior FIFA World Cups — the 1994 men’s World Cup and the 1999 and 2003 women’s World Cups, as well as 1996 Olympic soccer. Mark Ein, DC2026 advisory board co-chair, noted D.C. has hosted more U.S. national team matches than any other city in the world.
D.C. is both the nation’s official capital and its soccer capital. The 1994 tournament was a catalyst for changing attitudes toward the sport in the country. The combination of urban growth in D.C., as well as the rise of the most exciting iteration of young players the United States men’s national soccer team has ever witnessed, means the 2026 World Cup could be the perfect storm for the world’s greatest sport to explode domestically. With any luck, the District hopes to find itself right in the eye of that storm.
D.C. boasts many opportunities as a potential host city, according to Gina Adams, corporate vice president for government and regulatory affairs at FedEx and honorary chair of the DC2026 advisory board.
“Where else can soccer fans watch the world’s most popular game while also enjoying experiences brought from everywhere the game is played?” Adams said at the press conference.
Bowser emphasized the World Cup will coincide with the United States’ 250th birthday. The four-week festival of football is a party in itself, and the combination of these events would precipitate fireworks of the best kind.
“We think it’s the perfect marriage to bring the world’s greatest sporting event to the nation’s capital on the Fourth of July for the nation’s birthday,” Bowser said at the press conference.
In its proposal, the DC2026 team unveiled its vision for the 2026 FIFA Fan Fest on the National Mall. The press release for the event noted that it would be the largest Fan Fest by size and that a combined celebration would be “expected to draw more than one million attendees, which would make it the largest attended single event in FIFA history.”
While the event celebrated hopes to bring the World Cup to D.C., the effort may fail because of lackluster stadium conditions in the area. The 82,000-seat FedEx Field in Landover, Md., is 24 years old and would need to have its seating altered slightly to accommodate the yardage of a soccer field.
It was of utmost importance to FIFA’s primary tournaments and events officer Colin Smith that FIFA provide the best playing surfaces and facilities in the world. There are a plethora of other training facilities in D.C. that were considered suitable, including Audi Field, Segra Field and Georgetown University’s Shaw Field.
Bowser spotlighted D.C.’s unique ability to bring sports fans together, vocalizing hopes to bring World Cup matches to the district in 2026.
“There’s no better place to be than the sports capital, the District of champions — Washington, D.C.,” Bowser said. “And after this weekend’s visit, we can count on FIFA to make the right choice, to see that it is obviously D.C.”