Baltimore and Washington might be moving closer to combining their proposals to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup.
Terry Hasseltine, executive director of the Maryland Sports Commission, which is overseeing Baltimore’s campaign, said U.S. Soccer, the national organization, has asked the two cities to begin conversations about what a “re-imagined” joint bid would look like. That consolidated plan could then be presented to FIFA, the governing body of international soccer that will determine which sites will host the highly coveted games.
“There has been overture,” he said Wednesday afternoon. “We are going to start having discussions about what that may look like because it has to be done in relatively short order. FIFA is supposed to announce a decision in early to mid-May. Both sides have been independent all the way through this entire process, and both have significant merits. There’s obviously the nation’s capital, which is a very important piece of the U.S. puzzle. We have a world-class stadium [M&T Bank Stadium] that has gone through some significant renovations over the last 10 years or so to keep it one of the top stadiums in the NFL and the like.”
Hasseltine said he informed the Maryland Stadium Authority board during a Tuesday meeting about a possible merger of the bids from two of the 17 potential host cities in the United States. He had said earlier that either U.S. Soccer or FIFA, the governing body of international soccer, would have to mandate a consolidated bid.
The U.S. has partnered with Canada and Mexico to try to become the first three-nation partnership to host a World Cup. In addition to Baltimore and Washington, other U.S. cities under consideration include Los Angeles, Houston, Philadelphia and the San Francisco Bay area. FIFA could make an announcement on the 16 host cities across the three countries from a list of 23 around May 15.
EventsDC, which is leading Washington’s push, released a statement that shed little light on a potential merger with Baltimore.
“We are considering different options that will ultimately create a way forward for Washington, D.C. to host and support the FIFA World Cup 2026,” the statement read. “Based on this process, the DC2026 team made a compelling case for why D.C. should be an important component of the FIFA World Cup 2026 experience.”
Hasseltine said the World Cup’s reach is so large that all 17 potential host cities could get a piece — whether that means a base camp for a national team, a training site or a Fan Fest event.
“But we all know that the measuring stick is where the matches are being played in 2026 and that’s what we’re all fighting for right now — to make sure that our buildings will host World Cup matches because that is the true essence of why we all got into this,” he said. “We want to see matches played in our backyard.”
Hasseltine said officials from both cities have begun looking at calendars. He said his preference would be to coordinate a conference call sometime this week and an in-person meeting next week.
Hasseltine said an early to mid-May deadline is enough time to work on a combined plan.
“There will be some refined details that we’ll have to work on after the fact, but we will have to figure out where we are going to anchor the major components,” he said. “We’ve got to figure out what stadium will host matches, and we also know there are going to be team training camps. There’s going to be certain lodging needs that need to be handled. There’s going to be transportation logistics that will probably have to be refined a little bit after the fact. And then there’s going to be a combination of a Fan Fest that we’re going to have to host throughout the time of the World Cup. Is that a shared commodity? Do we use M&T? Do we have a small one in Baltimore with the mega Fan Fest in DC or vice versa?”
Hasseltine said he did not consider U.S. Soccer’s request to be a hurdle in Baltimore’s pursuit of hosting the World Cup.
“I actually think it’s the opposite,” he said. “In my humble opinion, I think it strengthens the opportunity for the capital region of the United States to be included in the 10 cities that they’re going to announce.”
This development comes on the heels of a study that questioned the strengths of the two cities’ independent proposals. A report by 42Floors, a branch of California-based real estate data firm Yardi, ranked Baltimore No. 16 and Washington No. 17 of the cities vying to host the World Cup.
Of a total of 100 points, Baltimore earned 23.55, ranking last in hotel rooms and trailing badly in other categories such as broadcasting and public transportation. The city did score high in airports, either.
In a text sent Wednesday afternoon, Hasseltine wrote that study “holds no weight as it was done in 2017 and did not take into account any of the work that has been done to date on Legacy, Human and Worker’s Rights and the site visit. We are listening to the leadership of U.S. Soccer and FIFA as to where we stand with the process, not the report referenced.”
When the study was released, Hasseltine said in a statement that the report relied on outdated numbers. To prove his point, he said the 9,241 hotel rooms listed in the study did not include rooms near the airport and in surrounding counties, which totaled more than 40,000.
Hasseltine also pointed out that the distance of 15.8 miles between training venues and the team hotel cited in the report is the farthest possible distance, insisting that the average distance is under 11 miles. And he noted that M&T Bank Stadium can hold 71,000 fans, not 65,000.
Washington compiled 21.58 points for scoring low in airports and training facilities. The city scored high in public transit.
In January, The Washington Post reported concerns about the capability of FedEx Field in Landover to host the World Cup had emerged. Under one plan, M&T Bank Stadium, home of the Ravens, would serve as the primary site for games, and FedEx Field, home of the Washington Commanders, would be the venue for other events.
Hasseltine said after that report that a combined proposal would accentuate the two cities’ strengths.
“The fact that we could merge the two synergies together would give FIFA and U.S. Soccer a much bigger portfolio to play with,” he said. “So there are some advantages merging the two. But that’s up to U.S. Soccer and FIFA. That’s not a Baltimore or D.C. decision. Whatever is in the best interest for the U.S. to host the World Cup that is inclusive of Baltimore or Washington or Baltimore and Washington, that is up to U.S. Soccer and FIFA.”
Source: Berkshire mont