Seattle is ready for this.
Thursday’s announcement that the city is one of the host locations for the FIFA World Cup 2026 to be hosted in the United States, Mexico and Canada is a milestone moment years in the making. It’s the culmination of years of work behind the scenes and a reward for a fanbase and community that has established itself as one of the most soccer-rich in the country over the course of decades.
Now, that community will be on display on an international scale on the sport’s biggest stage, an opportunity in part delivered by all those who contributed to that unique history.
“There just aren’t many other cities that have such a history,” General Manager and President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey told SoundersFC.com. “It is deeply rooted in our community and our fanbase. There are literally generations of Sounders fans here in Seattle. It’s completely authentic.”
The contributions of that community are apparent, not just in that rich culture in history, but also in all the nuts and bolts and complicated logistics that go into hosting an event on this scale.
It’s a massive undertaking, one that will require infrastructure developments within the city and renovations to Lumen Field that will include a new grass surface. Part of the festivities will also include a Fan Fest celebration on the central waterfront in Seattle and satellite events for people all over the state.
“It’s really been through the leadership of the Seattle Sports Commission,” Sounders Chief Operating Officer Maya Mendoza-Exstrom explained. “That has facilitated a much higher-level conversation with the city, the county and the state of bringing the right stakeholders together and essentially having the bat signal button that you can just push to leverage everything we need in this market.
“This close-knit community has gotten more sophisticated over the last three years since we started this bid process, and also a lot more coordinated,” she added. “That’s credit to the city. The city has done a lot of work to reorganize itself to be a one-stop shop for major events. It will work for the World Cup. It will work for the MLB All-Star Game next summer.”
As Mendoza-Exstrom pointed out, Seattle is uniquely equipped to host such an event due to its distinction as a “transit-rich hub”, something that has heavily factored into the planning during the bid process.
“We know that more folks will need to come from further afield to get to downtown,” Mendoza-Exstrom said. “But one of the things we tried to do with all of our planning – in concert with the city, in concert with the county – as we look at the ways we align with the other growth that’s happening in the region is to ensure that fans that at arrive at SeaTac Airport can get on Light Rail and don’t have to get to a vehicle and get to their hotels and points of interest with ease.
“And that they do it in the ways that are least impactful for residents who are here and for the environment. And that their dollars serve the widest parts of our region. We’re going to need everybody. While Seattle is the host city, this is a regional and statewide event.”
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.
Sounders Chief Revenue Officer Taylor Graham dubbed Thursday’s announcement part of a “transformational moment” for the sport and league, as well as for the Sounders as a club.
Seattle is coming off one of the league’s most historic accomplishments with this year’s Concacaf Champions League title, becoming the first-ever MLS team to win the continental competition.
With the CCL title, Seattle will have a chance to further expand its global brand at the FIFA Club World Cup in 2023 and will also open a new state-of-the-art training facility at Longacres in 2024, which will both be historic moments in their own right.
With Seattle now officially also announced as a 2026 World Cup host, Graham said that Thursday’s announcement is the culmination of an event that has been decades in the making.
“I think one of the reasons we are hosting in 2026 is built on the foundation for support in the game, dating back to 1974 and beyond,” Graham said. “The soccer culture in this city, in this state and in this region we feel is one of the most unique and special in the world.
“This is another major milestone to combine the love for the game and our desire to leave a positive legacy in our community on the businesses and individuals that live here. It’s part of the opportunity and the vision and love for the game and our desire to leave a positive legacy in our community on the businesses and individuals that live here. It’s part of the opportunity and the vision.”