SANTA CLARA (CBS SF) — The Bay Area’s bid to host World Cup soccer games in 2026 gets a final push beginning Friday with a visit by FIFA officials to Levi’s Stadium to assess the stadium’s and the region’s capabilities.

The Bay Area Host Committee for the World Cup bid will welcome a delegation from FIFA, US Soccer, and CONCACAF – the governing body for soccer for North and Central America and the Caribbean – for two days beginning Friday. The mayors of San Jose, Oakland and San Francisco, along with representatives from the San Francisco 49ers and Bay Area businesses such as Salesforce, Google, Airbnb and Visa will also be in attendance to showcase the Bay Area as a natural fit to host the most popular sporting event in the world.

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In 2026, the World Cup will be played in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, the first time the tournament is hosted by three nations. The Bay Area, with Levi’s Stadium as the proposed venue, is one of the U.S. finalists seeking hosting rights for the tournament’s games.

Goal keeper Claudio Bravo #1 of Chile dives for a shot that goes wide against Argentina during the 2016 Copa America Centenario Group match play between Argentina and Chile at Levi’s Stadium on June 6, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

The 16 host cities in the United States, Mexico, and Canada are expected to be announced in early 2022 from among 22 cities under consideration across the three countries. Ten U.S. cities 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.

The 2026 World Cup will feature 48 teams, up from the 32 teams to compete in 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

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.

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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.

“The 49ers have been proud stewards of the Bay Area for decades, and we’ve seen time after time how one of the most diverse regions in the world gets excited about major sporting events. The excitement and community spirit unique to the Bay Area has been directed at soccer for generations, going back to the FIFA World Cup matches the area hosted in 1994 and 1999, which were a huge success,” said 49ers President and Bay Area 2026 Board President Al Guido in a press statement. “There’s no doubt in my mind the 2026 FIFA World Cup would inspire an even bigger response, and we’re honored to be leading the Bay Area’s bid to host this exciting, crowd-drawing event.”

A contingent of Bay Area youth soccer players and local soccer supporters will also be at Levi’s Stadium to demonstrate to the FIFA delegation the region’s passion for the beautiful game. The region features some the most competitive youth leagues in the country, along with elite college soccer powerhouses like the Stanford and Santa Clara University women’s teams.

Helping strengthen the Bay Area bid is neighboring PayPal Park in San Jose, home of the San Jose Earthquakes and a possible training location for teams if the Bay Area is chosen to host games.

“The South Bay has a rich history in hosting international soccer and boasts the world-class venues needed to get the job done in 2026,” said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo in a prepared statement. “We also have the infrastructure and passion needed to leverage the economic boost the event would bring to the area for the long term development of soccer.”

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