FIFA representatives kicked off a 2026 World Cup venue tour at Gillette Stadium

Gillette Stadium is one of 17 potential U.S. sites, with 11 set to be chosen by early 2022.

World Cup 2026 Gillette Stadium Kraft
From left to right, Colin Smith the FIFA Chief Tournament and Events Officer, Victor Montagliani, the FIFA vice-president and Concacaf President, Robert Kraft, and Brian Bilello, President of Boston Soccer 2026 and the Revolution pose for a group photo on the soccer field of Gillette Stadium. John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

When the World Cup comes back to North America in 2026, New England fans may once again have the ability to attend games at a local venue.

Robert Kraft, honorary chairman of the 2026 bid (which will include host sites in the U.S. as well as Canada and Mexico) welcomed FIFA representatives to Gillette Stadium on Wednesday as part of a tour that will include 17 possible U.S. sites to host games for the tournament.

The list will be finalized at 11 U.S. venues in early 2022, joining two Canadian and three Mexican stadiums to host the expanded 48-team edition of the tournament.


“This is an exciting day for us to welcome FIFA here,” Kraft said in an introductory press conference.

Interestingly, though the press conference itself took place on the turf field, a World Cup game would require a different playing surface. FIFA regulations specifically mandate that games for the tournament be played on natural grass.

“It’s great that we’re kicking off on the pitch,” noted FIFA executive Colin Smith. “The pitch we will be changing for the World Cup, but it’s great that we’re here.”

Smith pointed at a wide range of potential factors in evaluating possible host sites.

“We’ll be looking at stadiums, infrastructure, airports, transport, mobility, sustainability, waste management, accommodations,” said Smith. “Really all the key areas that go into making the World Cup what it is.”

“There’s no one key area that separates it,” Smith added when asked what might elevate one stadium over another, pointing out that other factors — time zone, altitude, and climate — would also be taken into account.

Kraft, owner of both the Patriots and Revolution, could play a crucial role in bringing the tournament to a New England site, given his position in the bid. He recalled his own experience in gaining an appreciation of the World Cup’s cultural impact.


“I learned about the sport of soccer and the power of soccer in the ’80s when I traveled to Europe building my paper and packaging company,” Kraft explained. “I realized I could get seats to the Royal Albert Music Hall or symphonies in Germany because the World Cup was on and there was no competition.”

By the time the U.S. hosted the 1994 World Cup, Foxboro Stadium was included as one of the tournament’s sites. The impact of that, as Kraft recalled, helped launch the Revolution as one of Major League Soccer’s original teams in 1996.

“I think playing the ’94 World Cup at the old Foxboro Stadium made me understand how powerful that was,” said Kraft. “We were honored to have that Italy-Spain quarterfinal here. I think that was one of the main influences allowing our family to be one of the three founding sponsors of Major League Soccer. It also was an honor for me to be an honorary chair of the bid committee and help bring the 2026 World Cup here.”

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