Las Vegas is one of 44 cities meriting a look as a prospective host city for the 2026 World Cup, according to soccer officials tasked with scouting locations across North America for inclusion in an official multinational bid.
The United Bid Committee (UBC) of the United States, Canada and Mexico on Tuesday sent Requests for Information (RFIs) to city officials as part of a joint effort by the three nations to lobby FIFA for the rights to play host to the quadrennial competition.
Soccer officials from the connected North American countries announced their intention to work together submit to FIFA a joint bid. The RFIs are due September 5, and are meant to gauge a city’s interest and assess its infrastructure capabilities, as the committee seeks to whittle down their initial list of 49 possible stadiums to about 20 or 25.
The UBC is slated to settle on a final list of up to 12 in January for inclusion in an official bid, which is due to FIFA in March 2018. So far, Morocco is the only other country to express interest and have applied for consideration. FIFA will announce their final selection in 2020.
Soccer in Las Vegas?
The stadium that garnered the UBC’s attention for Las Vegas hasn’t even been built yet. But the NFL’s Raiders Stadium is scheduled to be completed in time for the 2020 (American) football season, and is expected to have much of what the committee is seeking in potential host stadiums.
The new Raiders Stadium will seat 72,000, which doesn’t meet the standard of 80,000 required for the opening match or finals, but would be able to accommodate the needs of preliminary group stage matches.
Additionally, Las Vegas is well-equipped and accustomed to handling large masses of international sports fans. Depending on which countries played in a city, up to a quarter-million people could be expected to flock not just to the stadium, but also to the city’s casinos, sportsbooks, and restaurants, much like crowds do for the NCAA’s March Madness or the Super Bowl.
FIFA Feeling Heat
The World Cup is held from the second week of June until the final match, usually on July 15. The temperatures in southern Nevada routinely reach triple digits and this year they ranged from 104 to 114 degrees.
Officials don’t want a repeat of what happened at the 1994 World Cup, where first-round matches in Dallas, Texas, and Orlando, Florida, had some teams playing in climates where the heat index reached 105 degrees. Likewise, FIFA has received international condemnation for awarding the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, which has some of the hottest temperatures on the planet during the usual summer schedule.
The bid for being the 2026 host will be the first selection by FIFA since US law enforcement helped expose major corruption in soccer’s ruling body, which led to the ouster of FIFA boss Sepp Blatter, who stood accused of orchestrating kickbacks, bribes, and money laundering in the host selection process.
It’s still widely believed that Blatter, who avoided arrest but received a six-year ban from FIFA, rigged the selection choices for Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022.
The international organization has since changed its structure, instituting term limits for the president and improving the vetting process for countries seeking to host future World Cups, in an effort erase the perception of, or opportunities for corruption.