Seattle should pursue the World Cup games in 2026.
The Greater Seattle region should wholeheartedly support efforts to be a host of the 2026 World Cup.
Hosting the pinnacle of the world’s most popular sport would be an outstanding opportunity to showcase Seattle’s beauty, hospitality and international ties, as well as its strong support of sports and soccer.
This also would be an opportunity to demonstrate the benefits of massive investments now underway in transit infrastructure, convention facilities and hotel capacity.
Most important, this would fulfill a promise to voters. They agreed to fund a new football stadium in part because of its potential to attract World Cup soccer.
A North American bid to host the 2026 games was granted June 13 by soccer’s governing body, FIFA. At least 10 U.S. cities will be chosen to host games, and Seattle is a contender, with a decent chance of hosting at least three matches in the first round.
Seattle has proved to be a world-class soccer city, breaking a record in 2015 for Major League Soccer attendance. Seattle’s average attendance that year overtook English Premier League team Liverpool in global rankings.
When state voters were asked in 1997 to contribute $300 million toward the $425 million stadium now called CenturyLink Field, it was pitched as a venue for both professional football and soccer. Soccer-fan support was key to its 51 percent passage.
The stadium was altered from a standard NFL venue to one that could accommodate soccer’s wider field, with wider corners and a lower crown in the center of the field.
There will be local costs, particularly for security. Seattle, King County and the state should be transparent about expenses when forecasts are available. They should work with private sponsors to defray the taxpayer costs, similar to the way sponsors stepped up to support the Special Olympics USA Games starting July 1 in Seattle.
In anticipation of a World Cup opportunity, provisions were included in the stadium legislation and contract with First and Goal, the stadium-tenant organization founded by Seahawks owner Paul Allen.
First and Goal is responsible for the cost to prepare the venue for World Cup soccer, including installation of natural grass. Operator profits from hosting World Cup games must also go to the state for tourism development and promotion, under a special section in state law.
FIFA will select cities for 2026 games in about two years. In the meantime, regional leaders should brainstorm ways to share costs, take advantage of the opportunity and work toward hosting as many World Cup games as possible.