The world’s biggest sporting event returns to the United States in 2026, but Chicago wants nothing to do with it.
Meeting last week in Moscow, the sport’s governing body — FIFA — announced that the United States, Canada and Mexico would jointly host the 2026 World Cup, the quadrennial world soccer championship.
The city opted out of potential World Cup hosting duties in November despite experience hosting World Cup opening ceremonies in 1994 at Soldier Field as well as frequent international soccer games featuring world-renowned teams.
Chicago is also home base for the U.S. Soccer Federation, the sport’s national governing body.
“The guys from international soccer wanted us to underwrite their sporting event,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said on NBC5 this week. “While I am always eager to boost tourism, I am not going to write a company a blank check that can fleece the taxpayers.”
Chicago’s absence had limited coverage in local media, but drew renewed questions and anger on Twitter, Facebook and other social media venues.
“How is hosting a World Cup game a “risk to taxpayers” when we already have the facilities and transit in place?” said one commentator.
“Why did Chicago pull out of hosting World Cup matches in 2026?” wrote another. “We host world class football friendlies every summer at Soldier Field, but decline to host the biggest soccer tournament in the world?”
For Chicago area fans, the closest World Cup sites appear to be Cincinnati, Kansas City or Toronto.
The Chicago region is ranked 10th best in the U.S. for soccer fans in a study released last week by WalletHub, a personal finance website.
It features professional teams like Major League Soccer’s Chicago Fire and the National Women’s Soccer League Chicago Red Stars as well as numerous college, high school and club squads. Chicago’s bid to attract Amazon’s second U.S. headquarters promotes a soccer stadium for an unspecified lower-level pro soccer team on a North Side site.
With arenas, ample hotel space and easy access via two airports, rail and roads, Chicago is more than capable of handling major events.
The city routinely hosts major conventions at McCormick Place, Navy Pier or smaller venues. Along with soccer friendlies involving some of the world’s top clubs, major college events make regular stops here, including college football at Soldier Field, the Big Ten basketball tournament and NCAA Division I regionals at the United Center. The NBA All-Star game is coming in 2020.
Vancouver, the Canadian city that hosted the 2015 Women’s World Cup, also took a pass.
The 2026 World Cup would be the second time hosting for the U.S., first for Canada and third for Mexico. The 2018 World Cup is currently underway in Russia while the 2022 event is set for Qatar.
— Why did Chicago takes pass on World Cup? —-