SANTA CLARA (CBS SF) — The group looking to have the Bay Area be one of the 10 U.S. cities or regions to host games of the 2026 World Cup delivered its pitch on Tuesday, with Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara being the centerpiece.
The Bay Area Host Committee met virtually with FIFA and U.S. Soccer to present its bid to serve as one of the 10 host communities in the U.S. Tuesday’s meeting was the first opportunity to present the Bay Area Host Committee’s vision of hosting 2026 World Cup games, which will be played in the U.S., Mexico and Canada – the first time the tournament is hosted by three nations. The Bay Area is one of 17 U.S. finalists working to earn hosting rights for the tournament’s games.
In the presentation, the host committee highlighted the Bay Area’s established history of hosting major sporting events, and featured what the committee called “the crown jewel” of the bid, Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. The home of the San Francisco 49ers received the second-highest evaluation score from FIFA during the initial review process in 2018 that culminated in the awarding of the 2026 tournament to the united U.S./Mexico/Canada bid.
“Levi’s Stadium was built to host the world’s biggest sports and entertainment events and there simply is no event larger than the FIFA World Cup,” said 49ers President Al Guido in a prepared statement. “The San Francisco Bay Area is globally recognized as one of the world’s most popular destinations with a successful history of hosting epic events including the first FIFA World Cup in this country, the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup, and two Super Bowls. This, along with being a global tech and innovation epicenter, makes us as qualified as any city to host this storied event.”
Strengthening the bid for Levi’s Stadium to host games is the proximity to Avaya Stadium in San Jose, home of the San Jose Earthquakes and a possible training location for teams should the Bay Area host games.
“We’re seen first-hand the support that our community has not only for our club, but also the vast number of international matches that have taken place here over the years,” said Earthquakes Chief Operating Officer Jared Shawlee in the press statement. “We’re extremely excited about our involvement with this bid and are confident the world will see what the sport of soccer means to the Bay Area.”
The Bay Area hosted World Cup games in 1994 at Stanford Stadium during the only other men’s World Cup to be hosted by the U.S. Stanford Stadium was also hosted a semi-final match during the 1999 Women’s World Cup. Stanford professor and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice participated in the presentation as the honorary chair of the committee.
“The FIFA World Cup is the ultimate unifier in international sport. I am honored to have the opportunity to champion the Bay Area’s rich cultural offerings, innovative spirit and passion for hosting premier events to the FIFA delegation – and excited to work with U.S. Soccer, FIFA, and our community leaders to harness the power of this event to encourage positive social change through various legacy initiatives,” said Secretary Rice in a statement. “I am confident the Bay Area will make an incredible host for the tens of thousands of national and international visitors that will travel to celebrate the most prestigious soccer competition in the world.”
Aside from Secretary Rice, the Bay Area Host Committee is led by Executive Director Patricia Ernstrom and includes representatives from the 49ers, San Jose Earthquakes, and others who the committee said would be announced in the coming months.
Since opening in 2014, Levi’s Stadium has hosted several international soccer games and major sporting events, including the 2016 Copa America, the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup, and Super Bowl 50. The largest soccer crowd at Levi’s Stadium was 70,547 for a Copa America match between Mexico and Chile.
FIFA is expected to select the final 10 U.S. host cities in 2021, along with confirming the final host cities in Canada and Mexico. The 2026 World Cup will feature 48 teams, up from the 32 teams to compete in 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. The U.S. will host 60 matches, including the quarterfinals, semi-finals, and the final, to be played at Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Canada and Mexico will each host 10 matches.