United Bid Wins ’26 World Cup but Revenue Projections Overstated
The U.S., Canada and Mexico have won the rights to host the 2026 World Cup, the first with an expanded field of 48 teams, following a vote of more than 200 FIFA member nations; Morocco was the other finalist. Sixty of the 80 games will be played on U.S. soil, including all matches from the quarterfinal round onward; Canada and Mexico will each host 10 matches. The 17 U.S. cities under consideration to host games are: Boston, NY/NJ, Baltimore, Washington D.C., Cincinnati, Nashville, Atlanta, Orlando, Miami, Kansas City, Dallas, Houston, Denver, Los Angeles, SF and Seattle; 10 will be selected. The final is scheduled to be played at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ.
Howie Long-Short: The United bid was selected because of the potential revenue (double that of the Morocco bid, $7.2 billion) and the stadium infrastructure that already exists. While all 23 venues submitted for consideration within the United bid already exist or are in the process of being built, Morocco’s bid required 14 venues to be built or renovated at an estimated cost of $15.8 billion. $14.3 billion in revenue would equate to an estimated $11 billion in FIFA profits or a +/- $50 million distribution per member country; 3x the revenue that the international soccer organization generated in Brazil in ’14.
While the tournament is going to be wildly profitable, $14.3 billion in revenue appears to be a pie in the sky figure. The United bid projected it would generate $5.5 billion in revenue from media rights, but FIFA pegs the number closer to $3.6 billion; wisely noting that the time difference prevents matches from being broadcast live (and therefore from maximizing revenue) in parts of Europe and Asia.
Attendance and ticket sale records set in ’94 (last time U.S. hosted) still remain, so perhaps U.S. Soccer Federation President Carlos Cordeiro’s prediction that six games (three opening games, both semi-finals, final) will generate ticket sales and hospitality revenue on par with the Super Bowl is accurate; but the United bid projects $1.5 billion in hospitality revenue, 10x more than FIFA anticipates. For comparison purposes, the last Super Bowl did $150 million in hospitality revenue. The bid also accounts for $1.4 billion in other activities (i.e. not games) that have yet to be announced. Even if the United bid ends up bringing in just $10 billion, it would still represent a 66% increase on the $6 billion FIFA will generate this summer in Russia.
Fan Marino: The current voting system, which makes member choices public, was implemented following the 2015 arrests of nine soccer officials (and five marketing execs) on charges of wire fraud, racketeering and money laundering. The old system, rife with corruption, called for just 22 FIFA executive committee members to cast secret ballots, explaining how Russia and Qatar managed to win the ’18 and ’22 World Cups, respectively.
For those wondering, with an unprecedented three host countries, it’s not certain that all three national teams will be guaranteed automatic entry to the tournament; however, it’s likely that COCACAF will amend its rules to ensure all three teams qualify.
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