Charlotte has made the first round of cuts to host a World Cup game in 2026.
The United Bid Committee, which is pushing for the games to be held in North America, on Wednesday released its narrowed-down list of 32 potential cities, including 25 in the U.S. The list had been whittled down from the original 44 the committee was considering back in August.
The list also includes four cities in Canada and six in Mexico. In the next phase of the process, representatives from the 32 potential host cities will travel to Houston the week of Nov. 13 for a “working session” with the United Bid Committee, the group said.
FIFA, the global soccer organization that holds the World Cup every four years, will make a decision on the 2026 host next June, the committee said.
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The Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority is spearheading the city’s bid. In an email to the Observer, CEO Tom Murray pointed to Charlotte’s “strong passion for soccer,” evidenced by the popularity of international friendlies, youth programs and the city’s local teams.
“We believe we could provide an unforgettable experience for FIFA and its fans and hope we have the opportunity to welcome the world to Charlotte in 2026. We’d also like to thank the Carolina Panthers and City of Charlotte for their collaboration, commitment and support and look forward to next steps in the bid process,” Murray said.
If Charlotte won, the games would be held in Bank of America Stadium, which has a capacity of 75,000. Per an agreement with the city, the Panthers are required to provide five rent-free days a year, during which the city can book non-NFL events during the off-season.
Each stadium on the United Bid Committee’s list has a capacity of at least 40,000 seats for “group stage matches.” But a stadium would need at least 80,000 to be considered for the opening and final matches.
The World Cup bid comes as Charlotte is also trying to win a Major League Soccer expansion team. Race track executive Marcus Smith heads the ownership group that wants to build a $175 million stadium where Memorial Stadium currently lies.