Seattle is eyeing a generous slice of a combined near $5bn (€4.7bn) tourism spend boost after being named as one of the 16 host nations for the 2026 FIFA World Cup, in the final tranche of venue awards.
After Qatar later this year, the World Cup will return to North America – after the US hosted it in 1994 – in 2026 to be co-hosted by the US, Canada and Mexico.
It will be the first time the tournament has been staged in Canada. Mexico famously hosted two historic editions of the World Cup, in 1970 – when Pele’s Brazil swept the board – and again in 1986 when a Diego Maradona-inspired Argentina won its second title.
In all, 11 US cities will host matches, with three Mexican venues being used and two cities in Canada hosting. The 16 host cities, in full are: Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco/Santa Clara, Los Angeles, Guadalajara, Kansas City, Dallas, Atlanta, Houston, Monterrey, Mexico City, Toronto, Boston, Philadelphia, Miami and New York/New Jersey.
The latter will use the MetLife Stadium for matches, in essence the modernised rebuilt replacement for the old iconic Giants Stadium, where Ireland famously beat Italy in the 1994 World Cup.
The 2026 tournament will also be historic for being the first World Cup to feature 48 teams, the largest to date.
Seattle – home to one of Major League Soccer’s most popular teams in the Seattle Sounders – is viewing the news of its host status as “a defining moment” in the city’s growth as an international sports tourism destination.
The United Bid Committee has estimated that 2026 host cities will collectively generate nearly $5bn in short-term economic activity.
A total of 40,000 jobs will be supported throughout North America’s 16 host sites – in Seattle, that will mean a significant number of new jobs in support of the events.
“The announcement represents one of the most significant moments in Seattle’s proud history as we cement our spot as an all-time great international sports destination,” said Tammy Blount-Canavan, president and chief executive of Visit Seattle.
“Our city has been preparing for this moment for over a decade, laying the groundwork with previous FIFA bids,” said Beth Knox, president and chief executive of the Seattle Sports Commission.
“The announcement marks the end of a five-year, labour of love journey in communicating to FIFA what we knew from the very beginning: we are ready to host the FIFA World Cup 2026,” she said.
The 1994 World Cup in the US was the most financially successful in the tournament’s history – breaking World Cup average attendance records with nearly 69,000 spectators per game, a mark that still stands today.
Visit Seattle anticipates all hotels within a two-hour drive of Seattle will be fully utilised.