Nashville not selected to host World Cup games in 2026

Published: Jun. 16, 2022 at 11:23 AM CDT|Updated: Jun. 16, 2022 at 6:29 PM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Nashville was one of the finalists to be a host city for the FIFA 2026 World Cup but did not make the cut.

City leaders said Nashville was an underdog in the process and went up against cities that “don’t have to sell themselves” like New York and L.A. Fans said it would have been an event in Nashville like no other.

“That would be fantastic,” soccer fan Richard Del Grande said. “If it were going to be here, it would be great.”

Some soccer fans said Nashville would be the perfect spot for the most significant stage in the sport. “Nashville would give people a good taste of America and would be a good town to pick if you are going to try to show the rest of the world what the U.S. is all about,” Del Grande said.

Nashville was one of the finalists to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup in North America. WSMV 4 caught up with one fan, Del Grande, at a pub near Geodis Park. “There is a mural over here of Soccer Moses,” Del Grande said. “That shows how much Nashville is down with soccer.”

Del Grande said hosting a World Cup would put a spotlight on the city. “People know Texas and D.C. and New York and L.A.,” Del Grande said. “Outside of that, I don’t know what other countries know about us. If they chose Nashville, they would be like, ‘oh what? What is that?’”

FIFA announced Thursday that Nashville was not picked. Butch Spyridon with the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp said the original bid to FIFA was for the World Cup to be played at Nissan Stadium.

Then earlier this year, talk started of building a brand-new stadium. “I will admit, it raised questions,” Spyridon said. “But I felt like we gave them the assurances they needed.”

They guaranteed FIFA they would play in the current stadium in 2026, and if there were construction going on at a potential new stadium, it would be cleaned up for the World Cup.

“This was the most competitive venue selection process in World Cup history, and we are proud of the bid that Nashville put together,” Butch Spyridon, CEO of Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp, said during a news conference Thursday. “While we are deeply disappointed, we’ve known since the beginning that we were a long shot. You never know what goes into these final decisions, but we are very appreciative of FIFA for the opportunity to compete. This was a positive experience for the city and us, as the organization who submitted the bid.”

Spyridon pointed out that many other cities chosen have newer, enclosed stadiums. WSMV 4 asked him if this is an example of why he believes Nashville needs one.

“While I definitely can’t blame the stadium... Yes,” Spyridon said. “Had we had a newer facility or covered stadium, I think it would have been a difference maker.”

Del Grande said he thinks it is a miss on FIFA’s part. “I don’t know if the rest of the world knows how cool Nashville is and the music scene,” Del Grande said.

WSMV 4 asked Mayor John Cooper if the uncertainty about the stadium’s future weighed into FIFA’s decision. He said he didn’t think so and said stadium decisions would be based on what is best for Nashville taxpayers.

FIFA considered 22 cities in Canada, Mexico, and the United States to host games in the 2026 tournament. This is the first time the World Cup has been hosted by a region instead of an individual country.

Cities selected to host in 2026 include Arlington, Texas (Dallas area), Atlanta, East Rutherford, New Jersey (New York City area), Foxborough, Massachusetts (Boston area), Guadalajara, Mexico, Houston, Inglewood, California (Los Angeles area), Kansas City, Missouri, Mexico City, Miami, Monterrey, Mexico, Philadelphia, Santa Clara, California (San Francisco area), Seattle, Toronto and Vancouver, British Columbia.

In addition to Nashville, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Denver, and Orlando, Florida, were not selected to be a host city.

“We know Nashville exceeded their expectations, and they found many things to love about Music City. I want to especially thank all our partners, including Gov. Bill Lee, Mayor John Cooper, John Ingram, who would have chaired our Local Organizing Committee, as well as the co-chairs: Ian Ayre, Burke Nihill, and Colin Reed,” Spyridon said. “It was gratifying to see the partnership and collaboration as we went through this process. We gave it our best effort, learned a lot, and now more than ever are prepared to host major global events.”

An economics professor at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville performed a study, estimating the economic impact of hosting to be more than $600 million, which would be the most significant impact for anything Nashville has ever done.

“Of all the efforts we’ve done on trying to be a more international destination, this is like the good housekeeping seal of approval,” Spyridon said. “It says yes, this is an international destination when FIFA looks on you favorably.”

The Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp first submitted the FIFA World Cup 2026 bid on behalf of the city and state in 2018. FIFA World Cup 2026 will be staged in the United States, Canada, and Mexico as part of the United Bid. It will include 48 teams and 80 matches.

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