The speculation is over. After years of planning, bidding and hoping, the FIFA World Cup 2026 is coming to Seattle.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of such a milestone. The soccer landscape in the United States looked vastly different in 1994, the last and only other time the World Cup was held on American soil. The event was a catalyst for the beginning of Major League Soccer, a league that will be 30 years old by the time a ball is kicked in summer 2026.
Seattle has as rich and deep a soccer history as any city in the U.S., with the formation of the Sounders’ first iteration in 1974. And now the franchise and its city will have the honor of welcoming nations from around the globe to compete in the world’s biggest sporting event.
“One of the legacy commitments of the bid back in 1994 was to have a full-time professional soccer system,” said Sounders Chief Revenue & Marketing Officer Taylor Graham. “You look at where we are as a league — the number of markets we are in and the number of players we expect to see play in the 2022 World Cup — and you think about all this infrastructure, development and investment across all of these markets. Look at where we are now relative to 1994. That legacy should be the same.
“How can MLS and the Sounders continue to grow the game and make sure that it’s accessible regardless of any factors? I think it’s a bunch of little things, but the interest, awareness and love of the game fuels everything else.”
The 2026 FIFA World Cup will be jointly held between the United States, Canada and Mexico, an unprecedented North American bid. With Canada’s inclusion in MLS and the increased fixtures between MLS clubs and Liga MX, the potential to further increase the competition in the region is limitless.
The Sounders recently became the first MLS team to win Concacaf Champions League, defeating Mexican opposition twice along the way, including the final. Seattle and the Sounders will have an opportunity to showcase their brand on a global scale at the FIFA Club World Cup, going up against the likes of European giants Real Madrid.
There is also a tangible trickle-down effect of a continued professional pathway. Hosting a tournament of this magnitude could be the first Sounders introduction for a young local child. The opportunity for them to connect to the sport and the club and follow the Homegrown pathway from a RAVE Foundation pitch through the Academy system and ultimately to the First Team is not lost on Sounders brass.
The Sounders have committed to building 26 free-to-play mini pitches throughout the state to expand the growth of the game and enrich the lives of its local youth through personal development.
“That’s every kid’s dream hopefully,” said Sounders General Manager & President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey. “That’s every Sounder’s dream. That’s why we do this: to give back and help communities. The 26 pitches by 2026 is incredibly ambitious and awesome. It’s going to change lives. It’s going to give kids access to play soccer.
“It would be really cool and certainly a legacy if we can permanently establish a pathway to the Sounders on a grassroots level from these community pitches.”
The 26 by 2026 initiative is part of one of four main pillars that Seattle sold to FIFA in its bid. The first is to centralize ground-floor business. The second is to provide a carbon-neutral fan experience. The third is to host an accessible event. And the fourth, which includes the building of mini pitches, is to commit to grassroots soccer in the community.
SPEND YOUR SUMMER WITH THE CHAMPS
A Concacaf Champions League celebration, theme matches, and a long home stretch make Sounders matches at Lumen Field your perfect Seattle summer destination.
The Sounders want their diverse ground-floor businesses, the same ones that support the club on matchday, to experience the joys and success of the event with them.
“They are such a component of the Sounders FC match experience that we want fans out in the community supporting them,” said Sounders Chief Operating Officer Maya Mendoza-Exstrom. “The ethos being about the ground floor encourages fans to patronize those businesses and the diversity that we have in this region.”
Seattle is also committed to a zero-waste event. This means having accessible means of transportation without cars, as well as sustainable restaurant options and other eco-friendly experiences.
Lumen Field is one of the most sustainable stadiums in the country, and it is designated as a zero-waste event because 98% of its waste is converted from landfills. The facility also operates as an energy neutral and energy negative event space in the summer months.
What makes Seattle’s bid special is how closely its tentpoles align with what the Sounders are actively preaching and investing in already.
“There is going to be a legacy that drives back to all of the values that the Sounders believe in,” said Graham. “Our commitment to the environment and sustainability. Our commitment to accessibility and making sure that the game is open, accessible and affordable to everyone regardless of who they are and where they come from.
“That’s the legacy of this World Cup,” he continued. “That legacy will live longer than this tournament and hopefully it’s creating the next generation of Sounders players and OL Reign players. There are so many ways to stay involved in the game of soccer outside of just playing, and this will be a milestone moment to showcase all those different ways.”
Portland Ticket Offer
With the World Cup coming to Seattle, we are offering tickets for $20.26 to our CCL Champions Celebration match against the Portland Timbers on July 9.
What is but a month-long event once every four years has the capability to impact a continent, a country and a region well after a champion is crowned. The city of Seattle and the Sounders know that they have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to put a stake in the ground that will catapult soccer in the state of Washington for the foreseeable future.
“The result is when all 1.7 million kids under the age of 18 live within an accessible distance of a place to play and have at least one soccer ball to play within Washington state,” said Mendoza-Exstrom. “That will be the success.
“What happens next is built on those big ideas that every kid deserves a ball and that every kid deserves to play. It’s really that simple.”