Philly pitches officials on World Cup bid

Philadelphia is hoping to be one of 10 or 11 American cities to serve as host sites for the 2026 World Cup.
PHOTO: Jack Tomczuk

International soccer officials toured Lincoln Financial Field Wednesday to determine whether the stadium — and Philadelphia — should be selected as a World Cup host site in 2026.

Cheering fans and employees, banners and billboards greeted the group from FIFA and United States Soccer as they toured Center City and later entered the Linc.

The 24-person delegation is visiting 17 American metropolitan areas and is expected to pick 10 or 11 to hold matches. Some of the tournament’s games will also take place in Canada and Mexico.

“Perhaps no other city in the country has a better track record of hosting major events over the past few years,” Mayor Jim Kenney said, pointing to the 2017 NFL Draft, 2016 Democratic National Convention and Pope Francis’s 2015 visit.

Kenney, during an afternoon news conference, said the World Cup would bring a new spotlight to Philadelphia. The matches would also generate an economic impact of $190 million, according to one study.

“It’s been an engaging and productive session, and we are looking forward to continuing our conversations after this event,” Dan Hilferty, chair of the city’s World Cup bid, said of Wednesday’s meetings.

Hilferty, the former CEO of Independence Blue Cross, is taking over Philadelphia Soccer 2026 from former Comcast executive David Cohen, who was recently nominated by President Joe Biden to be the U.S. ambassador to Canada.

“We want this, and we are ready to deliver on every commitment and over-deliver wherever possible,” Hilferty said.

Officials from FIFA, U.S. Soccer and the city walk across Lincoln Financial Field Wednesday.PHOTO: Jack Tomczuk

The FIFA officials seemed pleased with Philadelphia’s passion. Colin Smith, the association’s chief tournaments and events officer, said the city offered “an exceptionally well-structured and detailed presentation today with real substance across all the areas that go into a World Cup.”

In addition to examining the technical aspects of the stadium, FIFA also looks at transportation, accommodations, airports, sustainability and other factors, Smith said.

Aside from the Linc, players preparing for games in Philadelphia would be able to train at the Union’s Subaru Park in Chester, the Eagles’ Novacare Complex and the University of Pennsylvania’s Rhodes Field, according to the local bid committee’s website.

“We will continue our due process, and we have some very difficult decisions to make,” said Victor Montagliani, FIFA vice president and head of Concacaf, soccer’s North American governing body.

“But you can rest assured that the quality of your team, and the team that is behind Dan (Hilferty), has really put their best foot forward,” he added.

Colin Smith, of FIFA, speaks Wednesday at Lincoln Financial Field following a meeting with city officials.PHOTO: Jack Tomczuk

Tours of potential sites will continue for the next couple months, with a final decision anticipated early next year, Smith told reporters.

The delegation has visited eight cities over the past week, and it will conclude its trip Thursday in Miami.

Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Cincinnati, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Nashville, New York, Orlando, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C., are the other American cities in the running.

FIFA’s 2026 tournament will be the first World Cup in the U.S. since 1994, and there will be more matches than ever before, with the competition expanding from 32 to 48 national teams.