FIFA World Cup strikes North America


Mia Kirkwood

The long-awaited 2022 FIFA World Cup held up to its original expectations with several groundbreaking moments that astonished players and fans. As the hype surrounding the exhilarating tourney dies down and players begin to play for their regional teams and tourneys, behind-the-scenes plans for the 2026 World Cup slowly begin with high anticipation.

Mia Kirkwood, Opinions Editor

In the summer of 1994, uproar from determined fans, bright-colored flags and people of all ethnicities, races and nationalities overfilled the Rose Bowl Stadium as Italy and Brazil battled for the men’s World Cup title in the heart of Southern California. US Soccer hosted the first United States World Cup, which encompassed matches held in the major stadiums of the country. After an enticing shoot-out between the Latin countries during the tourney final, the land of the Canarinho won the ultimate prize: an 18-carat gold FIFA World Cup trophy that glistened in the California sun. 28 years later, America hops back into the World Cup mix after FIFA announced that the 2026 World Cup host country would include the United States—but with a distinctive twist.

For the first time in FIFA history, three countries qualified as host countries. Hosting the World Cup can result in multiple benefits for host cities’ economies due to the high levels of tourism produced during the weeks between the matches. Since all three countries battled for the opportunity to host the tourney, the US, Mexico and Canada will host the 2026 tourney. A 75% majority of the matches will occur in the US, while the rest will ensue in the latter. The clash of cultures, languages, locations and climates will become immensely present as the matches prolong through the North American summer season. 

“This following World Cup will be as good as the one we just had primarily because of all the wonderful kids and young talents that are playing right now. Me, my family and maybe even some friends are on the lookout for when the tickets for the semi-finals will be available as we are definitely planning on going to watch the game at Mercedes-Benz [Stadium],” junior Eldeer Patino said.

Out of the host countries, FIFA also chooses numerous cities dubbed host cities where matches will take place. The 2022 World Cup in Qatar included five host cities that held different matches within eight freshly built stadiums. Due to the proximity of the stadiums and the size of Qatar, travel between the various stadiums reigned reasonably easy for players and fans. The 2026 matches will take place in 16 stadiums across the whole continent of North America. One of the host stadiums includes the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in downtown Atlanta. As FIFA prepares for the upcoming event, hectic infrastructure and significant construction will plague host cities as they prepare for the soon-to-come influx of tourism.

“I think it’s a good idea to have the World Cup in three countries as it could bring the US, Canada and Mexico [culturally] closer if they make it something to remember. It’s cool that they are [World Cup matches] going to come to Atlanta, but the traffic is going to be even more unbearable and the prices of local places are going to rise for tourist taxing,” junior Ori Nyangani said. 

As North American countries and businesses begin their World Cup plans, upcoming young players begin to build their foundations as possible World Cup winners while long-running soccer players start to near the end of their careers. Players in their mid to late 30s begin to leave the pitch for good, while players in their 20s such as Erling Haaland, Vinicius Junior and Kylian Mbappe begin to power a new generation of S-tier players.

“Although we are going to lose a lot of legends and the final will likely not be as good as the 2022 World Cup, I still think that we are in for a good World Cup in 2026. It would be no surprise if a team that no one expected to do well makes it to the final. This world cup we had Morocco exceeding expectations by a mile even though they were predicted to be knocked out in the group stages. With that being said, I still think that two very strong teams such as Brazil and England will be playing in the final; a case could be made for a team such as Canada as they have a relatively young team with a lot of players with excellent potential,” Patino said.