On Tuesday, the United States, Canada, and Mexico announced a joint bid to host the 2026 World Cup. If the bid is successful, the United States would host 60 games in the tournament, including all of the games from the Quarterfinals to the Final.
There are a lot of questions that remain. If the joint bid is successful, where will the matches be played? How do the three federations plan to minimize travel? What locations would draw the most fans and have the best atmosphere?
Orlando would be a great place for the World Cup for a host of reasons. First and foremost, Orlando has proven to be one of the best soccer markets in the country. Orlando City fans filled Camping World Stadium with over 60,000 fans two years in a row. In addition, we set the NWSL record for single match attendance when the Pride played their first match in Orlando against the Houston Dash in front of 23,403 fans. The passion of those fans can be seen every weekend at Orlando City Stadium.
Orlando is also a travel destination. It could draw fans from across the country that come to enjoy Orlando’s entertainment options and also check out the World Cup. But even when looking simply within the state, Orlando provides a central location in Florida that could draw from numerous markets. Tampa, Jacksonville, and Miami are all within driving distance, and have all proven to be good soccer markets with teams in both the NASL and the USL.
Orlando is no stranger to accommodating everything that comes along with big sporting events. The city hosted part of this year’s NCAA Basketball tournament, three matches in Copa America Centenario last summer, and recently hosted the NFL Pro Bowl at Camping World Stadium. The 2017 Pro Bowl was one of the highest attended games in the event’s history, selling out Camping World Stadium. When Orlando hosted the U.S Women’s National team and Brazil for a friendly in late 2015, they set an attendance record at 32,869 fans. Both Orlando City and Orlando Pride were ranked second for attendance in 2016 in MLS and NWSL, respectively.
At every turn, Orlando soccer fans have proven to be some of the best in the country. Orlando is a growing city, a growing market, and has already successfully hosted major sporting events. Serving as a World Cup host city would showcase this city and these fans.
I’m sure they wouldn’t disappoint.