The Sounders play two games this week — one against Vancouver on Tuesday and another vs. LAFC on Saturday. The matches mark a reboot in a season that has given the club the past two weeks off. 

But those contests aren’t what the rabid soccer fans in Seattle are most concerned about this week. They’re all looking toward Thursday afternoon, when FIFA decides if this beautiful city will play host to the beautiful game on the world’s largest stage. 

The 206 isn’t exactly a neophyte in regard to the international spotlight. Films, renowned TV shows, a world’s fair — they’ll have all drawn attention to this maritime metropolis. But for Seattle to be a host city for the men’s World Cup in 2026? To have the rest of the globe’s eyes homed in on the Puget Sound area for the most-revered sporting event on Earth? 

It’s the kind of thing that — with the right game or two — can transform a town from famous to fabled. 

“I would just be so excited to watch a game in Lumen Field,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said. “I still remember ’94, I was there — I went to a couple games in ’94 [in California], and they were really life-changing moments. I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but the whole area around the stadium … the fans, everybody coming, the nationalities, you know, soccer is a world sport — just the whole vibe was really tremendous.” 

So is this going to happen? Probably. Maybe even one step above probably. But nothing is guaranteed. For one, Seattle has proved itself as one of America’s premier soccer cities. Atlanta United FC is the only club in MLS that regularly outdraws the Sounders. Not that the crowd will be composed solely of locals, but the idea of there being even one empty seat at Lumen for an event of this magnitude seems borderline impossible. 


Second, the city is in proximity to Vancouver, B.C. — which appears to be a lock to host World Cup games four years from now. When the U.S. first won the bid to host the World Cup, there was concern that Seattle’s isolation in the Pacific Northwest might turn FIFA off from choosing it as a host venue due to travel concerns. But considering that it’s right down I-5 from its northern neighbor, the location seems almost advantageous now. 

Third, practice fields abound. The Sounders will open a new facility in Renton in 2024, the pitches at Starfire Sports in Tukwila will likely remain afterward — and there are myriad other venues (Team USA practiced at Seattle U before Copa America) relatively close to the city center. 

And finally — Seattle proved what it could do with a high-profile international match last month by squeezing 68,741 people into Lumen Field for the CONCACAF Champions League final — doing so in front of FIFA president Gianni Infantino, no less.

Perhaps that’s part of the reason Yahoo! Sports writer Henry Bushnell listed Seattle as one of eight cities that “will (almost) definitely host 2026 World Cup games.”

The Sounders’ goalie agrees. 

“I think we made our case, and if we [Seattle] don’t get it [hosting honors], I’ll be sorely disappointed,” Stefan Frei said. “If they [FIFA] don’t get what the opportunity is in this city, then there are other things at play.”

And you never know about those other things. Nobody from FIFA is going to be considered for sainthood anytime soon. In 2015, seven FIFA officials were arrested in Switzerland on suspicion of receiving $150 million in bribes. And this year’s World Cup will be in Qatar — which isn’t exactly well-regarded on the human-rights front. 


Seattle also isn’t a top-10 market in the United States. That could matter. It shouldn’t matter given its passion for soccer and sports in general, but there is always a possibility — just like in 1994 — that it gets passed over. 

The announcement will be broadcast by Fox Sports (channel TBD) and will take place at 2 p.m. Thursday. FIFA will choose between 16-19 North American cities to host World Cup games, including 10-12 in the United States. 

As Schmetzer said, the World Cup coming here would be “a massive, massive statement about how much soccer is involved in our community, or how the community is involved in our sport. I guess you could say that either way.” 

On Thursday, we find out if Seattle will be a part of history or the recipient of heartbreak. My bet is on the former. If the powers that be deliver for this city, the city will deliver for them.