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Front Page » Communities » Miami may have a lock to host FIFA World Cup

Miami may have a lock to host FIFA World Cup

Written by on April 6, 2021
Miami may have a lock to host FIFA World Cup

The FIFA World Cup is coming to North America in summer 2026, and Miami-Dade is vying for a roughly 16/17 chance to be a host city and, potentially, the media center for the whole event. 

According to Jose Sotolongo, director of sports and entertainment at the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, bringing in and coordinating the massive event will be a communitywide effort – with major communitywide benefits for local businesses. 

Miami-Dade, he said, is one of 17 locations in North America and 11 in the US that have been shortlisted to host a portion of the cup. Three cities each in Canada and Mexico, he said, will likely be chosen, and 10 in the US. 

Last month, FIFA officials met virtually with representatives from every city, and the next step is an in-person visit in the fall with a final decision expected by year’s end. The cup Mr. Sotolongo said, will have 48 participating teams and first, second, quarterfinal, semifinal and final games. Which games each city hosts, he said, is ultimately up to FIFA, but if Miami-Dade is chosen there will be festivities all month long no matter what, as soccer fans pour in from around the world to be part of the event.

If Miami-Dade secures a part of the cup, he said, it will over the span of a month be the single largest and highest-grossing event to ever be held in the county. Behind the Olympics, he said, it’s the largest sporting event in the world. 

But unlike the Olympics, which sometimes leaves countries with expensive infrastructure and facilities that cost more to build and maintain over time than the games bring in, Mr. Sotolongo said Miami could host the World Cup tomorrow if it had to. The infrastructure, airport, hotels and stadium, he said, are already here – and so are the fans. 

In 2017, he said, Miami-Dade hosted El Classico, a yearly rivalry match between Real Madrid and Barcelona, which generated $15 million in ticket sales and became the highest-grossing soccer game in US history.

Hard Rock Stadium, he said, may not have the 80,000 seats that FIFA wants the host of the final game to have. But, he continued, the “VIP and Ultra VIP” nature of Hard Rock’s 68,000 seats could allow FIFA to bring in more money from ticket sales regardless. 

This isn’t the only pitch. Miami, Mr. Sotolongoo said, is the number one city for World Cup viewership in Spanish and number two in English. And at the moment, he said, it has the only airport in the nation that services over 100 airlines. 

FIFA usually gives the media hub to a city that does not host games, he said, but Miami’s international culture, closeness to Latin America and accessibility from most of the world could make it a strong candidate for this additional privilege.

The effort to bring the game to town, Mr. Sotolongo said, is currently small and coordinated, but interest in a host committee is already building even though one has not formed yet. A small team of three to four people, he said, is taking the lead and includes representatives from the bureau, stadium and county. 

If Miami-Dade gets the game, he said, it will be an all-hands-on-deck effort. Some individuals he said, have already volunteered to be on the host committee. 

“Coordination is going to be done at every level, from the mayor’s office on down,” Mr. Sotolongo said. “It’s going to be a communitywide event that’s going to incorporate the public and private sectors. Everybody’s going to be working together in order to make us shine like we know we can shine.”

Miami-Dade, he said, is an event community, and the county’s ability to pull off major functions is the reason it has hosted more Super Bowls than any other location. Landing the World Cup, he said, would be a huge win at a perfect time, as games are played in the summer season, which is often slower for tourism. 

“We’re very confident that we will get the games,” Mr. Sotolongo said. “However, we’re not assured of anything. We have to compete and not take anything for granted.”