MIAMI -- Like everything else, the 2026 World Cup venue selection process has been delayed by the COVID-19 crisis. It resumes this week when FIFA and U.S. Soccer conduct a workshop with officials from the 17 U.S. cities and stadiums bidding, including Miami and Hard Rock Stadium.
The field of 17 will be narrowed to 10 host cities, but that decision won't come until sometime next year.
A workshop Tuesday will be followed by individual virtual meetings during the next several weeks. Co-hosts Canada and Mexico -- which will have six cities -- had their initial meetings done before the coronavirus shut down.
The 17 U.S. cities bidding are: Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Cincinnati, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, New York/New Jersey, Orlando, Philadelphia, San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle and Washington, D.C.
Miami is expected to have a good chance to be selected because of its international appeal, proximity to Latin America and the Caribbean, the significant renovations to Hard Rock Stadium, and the city's history as an international soccer host and Super Bowl host, including Super Bowl 54 in February.
Colin Smith, the FIFA chief tournaments and events officer, said of Miami's bid: "We were in Miami in the Hard Rock and we certainly look forward to going back and looking at the more-detailed list of requirements. It's a great venue as are all the stadiums we've seen so far. Part of what we look at is what adaptations need to be made to the stadiums for a World Cup. Obviously, some of those are based on what type of match that stadium could potentially host. We look at a wide range of requirements, and we go through the details for each venue when we get there."
Other venues considered favorites include Atlanta, which has broken MLS attendance records; Boston, with a history of hosting big soccer matches; Dallas, with AT&T Stadium; Los Angeles, which has two MLS teams and hosted the 1994 World Cup final and the 1999 Women's World Cup final; New York, which could host 87,000 fans at MetLife Stadium; San Francisco Bay Area; and Seattle as one of the top MLS markets.
"Six years seems like a long time. It's really not. We're certainly impatient to get moving on this journey together," Smith said.
"We initially planned that we would finalize the selection process in the spring of '21. Obviously, that was based on us having started this in March and conducting at least, I would say, two sets of inspection visits throughout this year in order to finalize the process. Obviously now that we've had to delay that, it's very difficult to give a final (decision) date, because we don't know when the start date is."
The joint bid by the USA, Canada and Mexico will include 10 host stadiums in the United States (60 games), three in Canada (10 games) and three in Mexico (10 games). The expanded field will have 48 teams.
Canada and Mexico each has only three candidate cities. The Canadian cities are Edmonton, Montreal and Toronto. Mexico's are Guadalajara, Mexico City and Monterrey.
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