What the 2026 North American World Cup means for Boston

Even if the Revs get a Boston stadium, Gillette remains the World Cup focus.

Lionel Messi and his Argentinian teammates celebrate a goal at Gillette Stadium in 2016.
Lionel Messi celebrates with his teammates after scoring for Argentina at the 2016 Copa America Centenario at Gillette Stadium. –Barry Chin/Globe Staf

While the United States won’t directly be involved in the 2018 World Cup, it will be at the center of the 2026 edition.

On Wednesday, the joint North American bid (featuring Canada, Mexico, and the U.S.) was voted the overwhelming choice to host the 2026 World Cup. The result, won by United 2026 by a 134-65 margin over a competing bid from Morocco, means the tournament will return to the continent for the first time since 1994.

Boston soccer fans will undoubtedly wonder what local implications this news carries. In short, it means games will potentially be played locally (as was the case when the U.S. hosted in 1994). If that happens, Gillette Stadium will be the regional venue.


Currently, Gillette (by extension of Boston) is on the list of 23 candidate host cities. The United States carries 17 of the listed cities, with the other six belonging to Canada and Mexico. Eventually, 16 will be selected from the group.

Of the U.S. cities, only 10 will be selected. The list is expected to be finalized by 2021.

In its bid proposal to FIFA, United 2026 listed Wellesley College, the Nobles and Greenough School, Harvard University, and the Revolution’s practice field as viable training facilities for international teams staying in the Boston area.

The bid also proposed Boston as a potential host for a semifinal matchup, signaling that it might be a preferred venue.

After the news of the FIFA vote, New England Revolution president Brian Bilello hosted a press conference, where he discussed Boston’s chances of being selected as a host city:

Bilello also said that he assumes Gillette Stadium would have a “grass surface” installed for games, as it wouldn’t affect the Patriots.

Patriots and Revs owner Robert Kraft is listed as the honorary chairman of the North American bid, and the Kraft Group launched a nonprofit, Boston 2026, to help advocate for the city (and Gillette Stadium’s) inclusion in the World Cup plans.


One additional question that Boston soccer fans have involves a potential stadium for the Revs in the city. It’s an ongoing subject that the Revs have sought to address for years.

This issue would likely have no effect on the bid to be included among World Cup cities. The smallest allowed capacity for a World Cup stadium according to FIFA regulations is 40,000. That’s a larger total than any hypothetical Revs venue.

In a historical sense, Gillette has previously proven to be a capable host. In 2016, the stadium hosted three games of the Copa América Centenario. More than 59,000 people showed up to watch Lionel Messi’s Argentina dominate Venezuela 4-1 in a quarterfinal matchup.

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And in 2003, the stadium hosted three Women’s World Cup games, including a 1-0 U.S. quarterfinal win over Norway. Aside from that, Gillette has hosted games for the CONCACAF Gold Cup on five occasions, as well as other U.S. men’s and women’s qualifiers.