FIFA officials tour Denver during search for 2026 World Cup host cities

APTOPIX CONCACAF Mexico United States Soccer
Jack Dempsey/AP
The United States celebrates a 3-2 win against Mexico in extra time in the CONCACAF Nations League championship soccer match, Sunday, June 6, 2021, at Empower Field at Mile High in Denver.

Denver will make its pitch to become a global soccer destination Monday as FIFA officials tour potential host cities ahead of the 2026 World Cup. 

In all, 16 cities across the United States, Canada and Mexico will host games during soccer’s most prestigious competition. Tournament officials are working to whittle down the pool of candidates this month. Of the 17 U.S. contenders, only 10 will make the final list. Denver’s Empower Field at Mile High is among the candidates.

There are reasons for soccer fans in Colorado to be optimistic. Earlier this year, three CONCACAF Nations League games were moved to Empower Field from Texas due to coronavirus complications. All of the matches sold out, including those which didn’t feature the U.S. Men’s National Team. That has left fans hopeful FIFA will notice the sport’s local popularity. 

Victor Montagliani, FIFA Vice-President and CONCACAF President, and Colin Smith, FIFA Chief Tournaments and Events Officer, are among the officials visiting Denver Monday. They’ll speak at a press conference along with Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and former USMNT goalkeeper Tim Howard, who ended his career with a stint playing for the Colorado Rapids.

FIFA plans to finalize its host cities later this year. Kansas City, Dallas and Houston are other cities in the region vying for a spot. If chosen, it would be Denver’s first time as a World Cup site. The U.S. has hosted the tournament three times: once for the men’s in 1994, and twice for the women’s in 1999 and 2003.