Charlotte considers applying to host World Cup in 2026

Charlotte considers applying to host World Cup in 2026

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Katherine Peralta | The Charlotte Observer) - Amid ongoing talks about whether Charlotte should fund a new stadium for a potential Major League Soccer team, the city is now considering another big soccer initiative: Applying to host a World Cup game.

Earlier this week, the United Bid Committee, which is pushing for the 2026 games to be held in North America, included Charlotte in its list of 44 potential host cities for the 2026 World Cup. The committee is asking each city to declare its interest in the bid process by Sept. 5.

Charlotte officials won't say definitively whether they will apply to host, but they're considering it.

"At this point, all I can say is that city staff is reviewing potential next steps," said Gregg Watkins, spokesman for Mayor Jennifer Roberts.

North America and Morocco have said they are bidding to host the 2026 World Cup. FIFA, the global soccer organization that holds the World Cup every four years, will make a decision on the 2026 host next June, the United Bid Committee said.

The application process is a lengthy and involved process. The United Bid Committee is asking each potential bid city to provide information about its transportation infrastructure, past experience hosting major sporting and cultural events, available hotel accommodations, environmental protection initiatives, potential venues, possible training facilities and more.

If Charlotte decides to pursue the application, it would require heavy involvement from the Carolina Panthers, whose stadium has a capacity of 75,000. Per an agreement with the city, the Panthers are required to provide five rent-free days a year, during which the city can book non-NFL events during the off-season.

This wouldn't be the first time Bank of America hosted a major soccer event. Last August, Bayern Munich and Inter Milan played in a friendly match that attracted 50,177 fans. The matchup between Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea drew more than 61,200 fans there in 2015.

Each stadium on the United Bid Committee's list was built for either football or soccer, and has a capacity of at least 40,000 seats for "group stage matches." A stadium would need at least 80,000 to be considered for the opening and final matches.

The list includes 34 cities in the United States, seven in Canada and three in Mexico.

After cities declare their interest, the committee says it will review the submissions and issue a short list of potential hosts by late September. The committee plans to send the official bid to FIFA on March 16, 2018. At least 12 locations could serve as official host cities.