It took minutes of anxious waiting, but after years of lobbying, Philadelphia finally got the OK: The City of Brotherly Love will finally get to host a men's FIFA World Cup game as the single biggest sports tournament in the world makes its way back to the U.S.
The City of Brotherly Love was named Thursday as one of the host cities for the 2026 iteration of the global soccer tournament, with games taking place across the United States, Canada and Mexico.
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Going into the selection process, rumors were floating around that FIFA would select only 10 cities. With East Coast cities the last to be picked, there were minutes of sweaty palms and rapid heartbeats as it seemed Philadelphia might miss out.
Instead, FIFA selected 16 cities: 11 in the U.S., three in Mexico and two in Canada.
Besides Philly, the other American cities were Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, New York/New Jersey, San Francisco and Seattle.
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Mexico will see games played in Guadalajara, Mexico City and Monterrey. Canada, meanwhile, will host games in Vancouver and Toronto.
For the Philadelphians in attendance for a selection watch party at Love Park, the news that the World Cup will be played in their backyard was met with raucous cheers as the elated crowd jumped up and down in excitement.
“I couldn’t be prouder today. Let’s show the world what we have," Mayor Jim Kenney said following the selection.
The games in Philadelphia will play out at Lincoln Financial Field, the 69,000-seat home of the Philadelphia Eagles. The Linc is no stranger to hosting major soccer games or tournaments, including the Women’s World Cup, CONCACAF Gold Cup and Copa America Centenario.
The city began bidding to host games back in 2019 as part of a consortium of businesses and other partners including the Eagles and local MLS team Philadelphia Union.
As part of the bid, Philadelphia touted its experience hosting large events, including a 2015 papal visit, the 2016 Democratic National Convention and 2017 NFL Draft, all of which drew throngs of visitors to the city.
While Philadelphia is known for its professional American football, basketball, baseball and hockey teams, the city in recent years has also seen growth in both professional and grassroots soccer interest.
The Union, though yet to lift an MLS Cup, won its first Supporters’ Shield for the best regular season record in 2020 and has become one of the most consistently good and eye-catching teams in the league under the stewardship of coach Jim Curtin.
In addition, club captain and former U.S. Men’s National Team player Alejandro Bedoya served as an honorary co-chair of the Philadelphia 2026 Bid Committee, which worked to bring the World Cup to the city.
South Jersey native Carli Lloyd, who has two Women’s World Cup and Olympic gold medals to her name, also helped raise the profile of the sport in the region. So too did Julie Ertz, another two-time World Cup winner who is married to former Super Bowl-winning Eagles player Zach Ertz.
Meanwhile, the Philadelphia International Unity Cup has been played every year since 2016, barring a 2020 cancelation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The World Cup-style tournament includes neighborhood teams made up of people representing their country of origin.
The U.S. last hosted a men’s World Cup in 1994. Since then, the sport has seen tremendous growth in the country. Once a rarity, many American players now ply their trade at some of the top clubs in the world, including Christian Pulisic at Chelsea in the English Premier League, Weston McKennie at Juventus in the Italian Serie A and Tyler Adams at RB Leipzig in the German Bundesliga.
Though the U.S. missed out on the 2018 World Cup, it qualified in 2022 and is guaranteed a place in the 2026 edition as one of the host countries.
NBC10 sister station Telemundo62 will air games for the 2022 tournament, which this year kicks off in November.