The World Cup is coming to America! (And, yeah, also Canada and Mexico.) It’s great news for the entire country, and at the moment, 17 red-white-and-blue American cities are vying for 10 slots to host WC matches. That’s lovely and all, but forgive us if we can’t get too excited about hosting the world in a drab behemoth like FedEx Field in suburban Maryland.
Our humble proposal: throw out all of the host sites and bring in some fresh ideas. Let’s think big! Let’s think bold! Let’s think stupid! The world’s coming to our door, so let’s use our home-pitch advantage. Presenting ten sites that ought to host a World Cup match in 2026:
Stadium Parking Lot, Buffalo
It’s easy to be a graceful player with an acre’s worth of brilliant green pitch spreading before you. But let’s see how graceful America’s rivals are when trying to avoid getting powerbombed through a table by the Bills Mafia (see above). Tailgating’s an American tradition – we could check this box by hosting games anywhere from Oakland to Baton Route – but the loons in Buffalo are the apex predators of this world. Any player that gets out of this venue without getting set on fire has to consider himself a winner.
Daytona International Speedway infield, Florida
You don’t get much more American than stock car racin’, and the infield of a superspeedway like Daytona is its own special lawless wonderland, a place where barbecue sauce is everything from seasoning to beverage to engine lubricant to pool filler, a beer-suffused hellscape where you leave your morality, your faith, your hopes and dreams outside Turn 4. It’s heaven, and it deserves its own matches. Possibly even two or three at once; there’s room. (Also in the mix for this slot: the infields at Churchill Downs, Talladega Superspeedway, and Indianapolis Motor Speedway.)
Rucker Park, New York
Yeah, yeah, soccer is the beautiful game. You know what’s also a beautiful game? No-blood-no-foul, go-hard-or-go-home steel-chain-net playground basketball. And nowhere embodies that ethos better than Harlem’s Rucker Park. Sure, international fùtbol players are tough, but are they tough enough to handle the jeers of an angry crowd just outside the fence? And woe to the sad soul who thinks flopping is a good idea on this concrete; if the fall doesn’t traumatize him, the cascading boos of the fans in attendance will.
Augusta National Golf Club, Georgia
You’re not going to find a more immaculate stretch of land in America than the green between the Augusta National clubhouse and Amen Corner. That’s an awful lot of pristine property that just sits there 51 weeks a year. Let’s drop a fùtbol match right there in front of Rae’s Creek and see how well the world’s best can play when they’re not allowed to run.
The median of Interstate 95
Most Americans spend 14 hours of each day sitting in traffic. Why let all those eyeballs go to waste? Set up a match right there in the grass between the north- and southbound lanes of America’s most notorious beachbound artery, and suddenly a 14-mile backup because some texting-while-driving moron rearended a Prius doesn’t sound so terrible. Oh, sure, there’s the constant threat of the ball going into traffic, but hey, everything’s at a standstill anyway. Retrieving it will be easy.
Cameron Indoor Stadium, North Carolina
Rabid partisan fans? Check. Merciless treatment of refs and opposing teams? Check. Sense of victimization-slash-privilege that hangs in the air like a fetid cloud? Check. The Duke faithful are pretty much primed and ready to be World Cup fans. So if we schedule, say, an Argentina-England match there and then lock everyone inside, it’s going to be a victory from three angles.
Abandoned shopping mall, various nationwide locations
Setting matches inside old shopping malls would give Americans a definite edge; everyone over the age of 20 knows how to maneuver around a food court to avoid that person you don’t want to see. Plus, we’d know where the bathrooms are. Oh, sure, all the multi-level tiers, bridges, and skylights don’t exactly meet FIFA regulations for pitch size, but hey, our country, our rules. Bonus: the mall’s Great American Cookie Company is probably still in operation.
Las Vegas Strip, Nevada
Start with the fact that the Strip would be a sensory overload for anyone outside the good ol’ U-S-of-A, from the dancing lights to the seismic fountains. Anything worth doing is worth overdoing, and as we’ve just seen with the Vegas Golden Knights’ pregame show, Las Vegas would start every World Cup match with a three-act epic featuring Celine Dion and a magician you’ve never heard of. Plus, it’s even odds that someone would interrupt a match to try to hand the goalkeeper a flyer for a gentlemen’s club.
Wrigley Field/Fenway Park, Illinois and Massachusetts
Two different legendary venues, same idea: throw a couple countries into the outfield and let the bleacher bums in Chicago and Boston have at ‘em. Oh, sure, they’ve dealt with hooligans in their own nations, but they’ve never had Sully from Southie give a detailed breakdown of their genealogical history and the farm animals involved therein, or tried to dodge an Old Style slung with the laser-guided accuracy of a cruise missile. Plus, the ivy and the Green Monster are in bounds. Play on!
Bourbon Street, Louisiana
Self-explanatory. Any team that can play through the sopping-blanket humidity, dead-muskrat stench, and bodily-fluid buffet that makes up every given weekend on Bourbon Street deserves its victory.
There you have it. Ten locations, ten genuine looks at the real America. Why spend billions on stadiums when you can just play in the streets? Let’s make this happen. Post your own suggestions in the comments below.
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