Soccer is one of the most popular sports with a fan base that keeps growing every year. When it’s on the international stage, very few Sporting Events can surpass the Soccer World Cup. Jacksonville is eyeing a piece of this cake. Approximately 34 cities are being considered to host this massive event and Jacksonville has made the cut. This move has been seen as a united effort made by three nations - the United States, Canada, and Mexico to successfully bid against Morocco.

Meeting the checklist to be an ideal stage for a Soccer World Cup match

Amongst the list of 34 candidate cities, Dallas has two suitable stadiums and Los Angeles has three.

These may be available for the World Cup upon the United Bid Committee receiving a confirmation from the respective cities by 5th of September.

All stadiums are required to meet certain standards set by the FIFA committee that governs World Soccer. Standards include – seating capacity of 40,000 people and certain minimum field dimensions. EverBank Field, the football stadium in downtown Jacksonville meets both these crucial requirements. The stadium has also successfully managed to host a series of matches that had participation from the US National Men’s team.

Fans are what make World Cups vibrant, celebratory and colorful. The stadium has a proven track record to drawing numbers for regional Soccer games such as – the US versus Scotland in 2012 that saw the attendance of 44,438 fans and the US versus Nigeria in 2016 that saw the attendance of 52,033 fans.

Besides these highlights, there are a few low points too for the stadium during the matches against Trinidad and Tobago, which saw an attendance of only 19,410 fans.

Only cities that are infrastructure ready by 2026 to make the cut

In addition to the stadium standards, there are many other aspects that are crucial in terms of the selection of the candidate cities.

These include – transportation facilities, hotel accommodations and training site options for teams. The United Bit Committee is expected to send a list of 20-25 stadiums that meet these standards to the FIFA. Upon successful bidding, these stadiums will be scrutinized again for further shortlisting till the number reaches approximately 12.

The 1994 host cities - Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York, Orlando, San Francisco and Washington have all made it to the list again with Orlando hosting the 2016 Copa America Centenario games as well. For this reason alone, it remains the toughest competitor for Jacksonville. Amongst other competitors, cities fighting for a spot on the list include Atlanta, Birmingham, Charlotte, Miami, Nashville, New Orleans and Tampa. Jacksonville made the initial round of cuts in 2010 but missed to make it to the final 18.

With FIFA extending the number of participating teams from 38 to 42, the number of matches to be played is expected to increase to 80. This is a clear indication of the increased number of suitable venues required.

Having lost to Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022, the three-nation bidding committee is making a strong case for North America with Jacksonville hoping to be one of the hosts. Once the bids are submitted by 16th March 2018, FIFA will take the final decision in June in Moscow.