Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Jacksonville Named Candidate City for 2026 World Cup

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Jacksonville Named Candidate City for 2026 World Cup

Article excerpt

Byline: Clayton Freeman

The First Coast is officially on the radar for World Cup soccer.

The United States Soccer Federation announced Tuesday that Jacksonville is among 34 cities under consideration as a host city for the 2026 World Cup.

The bid is part of a three-nation combined effort of the United States, Canada and Mexico, which will be bidding against Morocco to make North America the host for the planet's biggest sporting event this side of the Olympics.

Now, Jacksonville is a part of the discussion.

A spokeswoman in Jacksonville's public affairs office said the city did not have any official response at this time.

The United States, which previously served as host nation in 1994, next continues the process of identifying its potential host cities.

Each contender on the nation's list of 34 cities and 37 stadiums - Dallas has two possible venues and Los Angeles has three - must confirm its interest by Sept. 5 to the United Bid Committee, the three-nation organization coordinating the bid.

From that point, U.S. Soccer plans to issue a short list of candidates in late September.

World Cup stadiums must, among other things, seat at least 40,000 people and meet the minimum field size standards of world soccer governing body FIFA. EverBank Field can clear the first hurdle easily, the second more narrowly, and has built a successful recent track record in matches involving the U.S. men's national team.

The city has drawn regional record crowds for American games against Scotland in 2012 (44,438 fans) and Nigeria in 2014 (52,033). However, the most recent match, September's World Cup qualifier against Trinidad and Tobago, drew a smaller attendance of 19,410.

The stadium is just one element in the bid, which also includes considerations like transportation infrastructure, available hotel accommodations and team training sites.

The United Bid Committee expects to submit between 20 to 25 venues in its bid to FIFA. If the North American bid succeeds, that number would be whittled down further.

The tournament would include at least 12 host cities, though the exact number remains undetermined. …

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