Baltimore-Maryland 2026 World Cup president Terry Hasseltine said his group would be receptive to a joint bid with Washington if approached by FIFA and U.S. Soccer about the idea, but he stresses that his group has not heard anything from either party about that and is still focused on Baltimore’s individual bid to bring matches to Charm City.
Baltimore and Washington have made both made bids to host World Cup matches when the prestigious tournament comes to North America in 2026. The Washington Post recently reported that FIFA has concerns about FedEx Field as a match venue and thus could opt to play matches at M&T Bank Stadium in nearby Baltimore. Capital cities of countries have typically hosted matches during World Cup play, but D.C. may have to settle for other events, like watch parties.
Hasseltine, also the Maryland Sports Commission executive director, joined Stan “The Fan” Charles and Gary Stein on Facebook Live Jan. 20 to discuss where Baltimore’s bid stands.
“Right now, U.S. Soccer and FIFA have asked [Baltimore and Washington] to remain two independent bidding entities,” Hasseltine said. “And until FIFA and/or U.S. Soccer come to us and say, ‘Hey, let’s follow this idea further to ensure that the North American bid has the best venues and the best people at play, to ensure that we host the best World Cup in 2026 in North America,’ we’re ready to listen. We’ve been receptive to everything’s FIFA asked us to do. We have been receptive to U.S. Soccer and the things that they’ve asked us to do throughout this entire process.”
FIFA officials visited Baltimore in September, taking in the Ravens-Chiefs thriller Sept. 19 and touring M&T Bank Stadium and the rest of the city the following day. Baltimore is one of 17 U.S. cities bidding for matches, and FIFA will select 10 or 11. Hasseltine expects FIFA to announce host cities between late March and early May.
M&T Bank Stadium is the foundation of Baltimore’s bid, but Hasseltine is proud of the entire package the city offers, including possible training sites and FanFest locations. If chosen, Baltimore would host five to seven matches, which Hasseltine likened to “hosting five to seven Super Bowls in a two-week period of time,” a major boon to hotels, restaurants and other businesses in the city.
Hasseltine is confident about Baltimore’s chances, regardless of the Washington situation.
“We’ve put a lot of hard work and a lot energy and blood, sweat and tears into this thing and we feel very confident on our own merit,” Hasseltine said. “But we also would be receptive if U.S. Soccer or FIFA tells us that we need to add someone else [as part of] the equation. We’ll see where those cards fall in the future, but right now I feel really good about where Baltimore stands on its own.”
Washington Post soccer insider Steven Goff broke the news about FIFA exploring a joint effort between Baltimore and Washington. Goff told Glenn Clark Radio Jan. 20 that Baltimore, on its own, is a “long shot” to become a host city and that Washington would be a “no-brainer” with a facility that fills the needs of attending fans, players and a TV audience. M&T Bank Stadium does a better job of that than FedEx Field, thus creating a possibility for matches in Baltimore and other events (FanFest on the National Mall being one) in D.C.
The Washington Football Team’s lease at FedEx Field runs through 2027, and Goff said building a new stadium that would be used for the 2026 World Cup and be ready for the football team in 2028 is likely not a practical solution. What happens next is up to FIFA, according to Goff.
“This is FIFA’s tournament. This is FIFA’s World Cup. Cities have organized their own bids … but ultimately FIFA [can say], ‘Hey, it’s in the best interest of the World Cup that you guys come together and make this happen,'” Goff said. “Washington will be sorely disappointed, but what are they going to do, not participate at all? That doesn’t help them. And Baltimore I think would be overjoyed with the idea of hosting several matches and teaming up with D.C. to make this truly a Baltimore-Washington, I-95 bid.”
For more from Hasseltine, watch the full interview here:
For more from Goff, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox