Sorry, Pittsburgh, there’s no way the 2026 World Cup is coming to Heinz Field

Of the 44 cities on the World Cup bid list, Pittsburgh might be last in line.

Soccer: International Friendly Men’s Soccer-Bolivia at USA
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The United Bid Committee for the United States, Canada and Mexico released Tuesday a huge list of cities they’ve declared as candidates to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup, all but guaranteed to be held in North America less than a decade from now. Morocco is the only other country to bid on that event, so it’s coming here for sure.

The 44 cities listed in the three countries — 49 total stadiums — are now being asked to declare their interest in taking part in the bid process. Rejoice, yinzers, because Pittsburgh made the cut!

Only … there’s a catch. The committee is only planning to send a list of 20-25 venues as part of the final bid to FIFA, due by March 16, 2018, and just 12 cities will make the cut to host matches.

This, from USSoccer.com:

The Bid Committee plans to include 20-25 venues in its final bid to FIFA. If selected to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup™, subject to FIFA’s determination, it is anticipated that at least 12 locations could ultimately serve as Official Host Cities. If a city is not selected to host matches, there may be other opportunities to be involved in the 2026 FIFA World Cup™. Those cities, as well as other cities not on the initial list, could be selected as the location for the International Broadcast Center, host Team Base Camps or host major events such as the Preliminary or Final Draw.

If you think Pittsburgh is going to be one of the 20 to 25 cities in the initial list, or you think by some miracle they’ll be one of the 12 host cities, then I’ve got 446 bridges to sell you.

There is no way Pittsburgh is getting the World Cup. And here’s why.

The 2026 World Cup will have 80 matches, with 60 being held in the United States and 10 each in Mexico and Canada. Those include both the group stage matches and potential knockout rounds, with the quarterfinals on taking place in the United States.

Let’s presume of the 12 host cities, two each will go to Mexico and Canada, giving each of those four venues a potential four to six matches over the month-long event. That only leaves eight cities in the United States that will get to host matches.

During the 1994 World Cup in the United States, nine cities hosted the 52 matches. All nine are part of the 34 United States cities on the current list, including Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., Detroit, Orlando, Dallas, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco. (Check out the full list here.)

If the United States gets just eight host cities, one of those cities will miss out. Moreover, there are more and more cities that have become soccer hotbeds in this country since the mid-90s that could jump ahead of, say, Detroit.

But there’s also Atlanta, which now has an MLS team, Charlotte, which is a big soccer area, Cincinnati, which has turned into the hottest soccer city in the country right now, Denver, which has an MLS team and routinely gets to host U.S. Soccer games, Kansas City, Seattle, Philadelphia and Nashville, which all have hosted big MLS and international matches in recent years.

Tampa, San Diego, San Antonio, and heck even Salt Lake City are a bigger soccer cities than Pittsburgh. And that’s not even mentioning Phoenix, which has a huge indoor stadium and a pretty direct route to Mexico. Same goes for New Orleans.

HeinzField
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Of all the cities on the initial list — we haven’t mentioned Indianapolis, Houston, Las Vegas yet either — Pittsburgh has a better chance than maybe only Cleveland and Green Bay. Think you’ve got a better shot at hosting than Baltimore, Minneapolis or Nashville? Think again. Miami? Please.

The reality is, it’s an honor just to be nominated, but there is less than zero chance the World Cup will be coming to Pittsburgh in 2026. Let’s assume the United States figures out a way to sneak 10 cities out of this deal, even then Pittsburgh doesn’t have a shot.

I’d say the following cities are locks: Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Dallas. The likely next four cities would be Phoenix, Boston — Bob Kraft has a ton of stroke in U.S. Soccer — Washington, D.C. and Miami, or a city in Florida. After that, expect Houston, San Francisco, Seattle, Philadelphia and Denver to make the best case for inclusion.

And … that’s 13 cities. So, yeah, sorry, Pittsburgh soccer fans. The best you can probably hope for is a five hour drive to Philly or a seven-plus ride to Chicago. But hey, you made the first list. That’s something to celebrate.

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