Jacksonville EverBank Field Potential Host to 2026 World Cup Soccer Games
GOOOOOAAAAAALLLLLL! This now familiar outburst could be ringing from the EverBank Field announcer’s booth at official World Cup soccer games in Jacksonville in the year 2026. The city has been invited to be part of the selection process for World Cup games along with 33 other U.S. cities. The international body of soccer, FIFA, sent documentation to the city office from their bid committee requesting information.
Becoming a host city for World Cup soccer matches is no small feat. It requires stadium capacity of at least 40,000 for opening stage matches and the ability to hold 80,000 for the opening match as well as the World Cup final. Jacksonville’s EverBank Field has a stadium capacity of more than 67,000. In recent years, EverBank Field has hosted Men’s and Women’s National Team matches.
Jacksonville is well equipped to host a sporting event of this magnitude. In 2005, Super Bowl XXXIX was held at EverBank Field. At the time it was known as Alltell Stadium. The Patriots defeated the Eagles that day in a tight game, 24–21.
The bid committee is giving all cities in the running until September 5th to respond to the request for information. The response will include information about transportation infrastructure, past notable sporting events which have been hosted, hotel accommodations, environmental protection initiatives, and more.
Each city must also provide information regarding sites for training prior to the start of and during World Cup play as well as hotel information for teams, staff and other important personnel.
The World Cup of 2026 will not only be spectacular as usual, but also unique. It will be the first time 3 countries will host games of the tournament. The United States, Canada, and Mexico have submitted a collective bid to become the host. Morocco has also submitted a bid.
Early next year the bid committee will narrow the search and on June 13, 2018, FIFA will decide whether or not to accept one of the two bids.
This World Cup promises to feature not just some of the best athletes in the world, but also an expanded number of teams competing — 48. Prior to 2026 the tournament will include a 32 team format. Voting was unanimous for World Cup 2026 to expand the number of matches to 80 which includes 16 groups of 3 teams competing for the golden trophy.
Soccer has become something of an extraordinary sport in the United States. For years only thought of as a sport played by every nation except the U.S., soccer has been embraced within the last twenty years by this country in a major way. A professional soccer league now exists within the U.S. borders featuring teams in 15 cities as well as an additional 3 competing in the league from Canada.
Hosting a World Cup soccer tournament means more to a city than just filling stadium seats and booking hotel reservations, although the economic impact is great. It means a city is opening its arms wide to an event which takes place every four years, and for a few short weeks becomes a world stage for unity, tolerance, and peace.
I would love to see the World Cup take place in Jacksonville. If we can make it happen, I know the world is going to LOVE our city, our people, our community, and our beautiful land. It’s time for me to brush up on my soccer rules and order a new welcome mat.
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