"I see a barren expanse. Northwood. Northwood, Iowa. Our host for the first match of the 2026 FIFA World Cup. "
We’re picking the U.S. host cities for World Cup 2026 today.
As we jump ahead eight years be aware that this event is going to usher in some significant changes.
First, Three countries will host for the first time, with 10 games in Mexico and Canada each, and 60 in the U.S. This will be Mexico’s third WC host/co-host, the most by any nation. More intriguing, the field will expand to 48 from 32, essentially adding a mini-group round to feed an expanded knock-out round. There will be 16 three-team groups. The top two teams will continue into the 32-team knockout round.
The competition will remain at 32 days: more football, and more meaningful football, packed into the same amount of time. On paper, I think it’s an improvement.
These are the actual team allotments from each region: Asia 8, Africa 9, North America 6, South America 6, Oceana 1, Europe 16, Playoff 2.
Host cities in Mexico will be Mexico City, Guadalajara, Monterrey; Canada will be Montreal, Edmonton and Toronto. Seventeen U.S. Cities are vying for 10 spots: LA, DC, NYC, Dallas, KC, Denver, Houston, Baltimore, Atlanta, Philly, Nashville, Seattle, San Francisco, Boston, Cincinnati, Miami, Orlando.
As always we are going to set some silly ground rules so if you don’t like it, write your own damn blog.
No city can have ever hosted a World Cup game before.
There has to be some cultural connection between the city and visiting teams.
There must be a stadium that will hold at least 35,000, the smallest of the Russian venues this year.
Each venue will match host and team as much as possible given seedings. (for example, the top qualifier in Asia will headline the three teams in “The Asia Location” with the other two slotted in based on seedings regardless of region.
I’ve assigned these regional designations for the 10 total U.S. sites: Asia, Africa, US West, US East, South America, Northern Europe, Central Europe, Eastern Europe, Middle East, Wild Card. I’m combining Oceana into Asia. The wild card will be a qualifying city picked from a hat.
There are 11 official candidate cities still in the running: NYC, KC, Denver, Houston, Baltimore, Atlanta, Philly, Nashville, Seattle, Cincinnati, Miami.
Good for them, but I’m not confident. Let’s Begin.
Host city: Honolulu
68% of Honolulu residents are of Asian ancestry, which is the highest in the U.S. It is also 6th highest in total number so there is a mass of people to draw on for attendance and atmosphere.
Also ran: Seattle. Large Asian population, also close to Western Canada. Honolulu was just too unique.
Potential Teams: Japan, S. Korea, New Zealand, Australia
Host city: Houston
This official candidate wins on its high number of Nigerian immigrants, by far the African country with the most U.S. immigrants. As the fourth largest U.S. city there are thousands of recent locals who will relish the opportunity to participate, including about 50% who aren’t white.
Also ran: If we’re considering African Americans Atlanta is a no-brainer. Not sure there is a strong enough world soccer interest among that population.
Potential Teams: Nigeria. Egypt, Ghana.
Host Cities: Seattle/Portland
Region: US West
We are splitting this because both cities have awesome support for their local sides, and are considered perhaps the best U.S. Soccer cities outside of LA. . The soccer hotbed of Vancouver to the north makes this a fairly compact mini-region.
Also rans: Denver. Considered for the same reasons as S-P, but without the concentration of the Northwest population.
Potential Teams: U.S. (one or two games)
Host City: Columbus, Ohio
Region: US East
This college town has always been a welcoming oasis for the turbulent travails of the U.S. national team. If they can handle the Buckeye crowd on a fall Saturday, they can accommodate some mild-mannered U.S. Soccer maniacs for a handful of footie.
Also Rans: Chapel Hill, NC, college soccer hotbed.
Potential Teams: U.S. (one or two games)
Host City: New York City (proper)
Region: South America
I didn’t realize there were only 10 teams in CONMEBOL. Sixty percent qualifying, by far the most of any confederation. This is all about Brazil and where the most Brazilians live in the U.S. New York, Florida, Texas and California are always going be top contenders when we’re looking at immigrant populations so I don’t take this lightly. Even non-South American soccer fans in the ethnic-rich northeast understand the significance of Brazil’s contributions to the world’s game.
Also rans: Miami, Florida, in general has tons of Argentinian ex-pats.
Potential Teams: Brazil, Argentina
Host City: Minneapolis/St. Paul
Region: Northern Europe
Scandinavian population, healthy soccer culture, great facilities.
Also rans: Madison, Wisconsin
Potential Team: Sweden, England
Host City: St. Louis
Region: Central Europe
In contention for the best U.S. Soccer City. Long history of players on many levels and good fan support. Strong German immigrant community.
Also rans: Cincinnati
Potential Team: Germany, Italy, Spain
Host City: Lincoln, NE
Region: Eastern Europe
We travel to the origin city of the American Outlaw Fan Club, who knew? Lots of Czech and other Bohemian ancestry in this part of nowhere. Travelers from landlocked Europe will feel comfortable on the plains, nourished with starchy foods and a side of subtle racism.
Also rans: Kansas City
Potential Team: Croatia, Serbia, Russia
Host City: Ann Arbor, MI
Region: Middle East
The biggest Arabic immigrant populations are in large cities that hosted the 1994 World Cup so this was a challenge. We’re traveling an hour west from Dearborn, Mich., the Arab Capital of the U.S., to this college town
Also rans: Philadelphia
Potential Team: Saudi Arabia, Iran
Host City: Albuquerque, NM
Region: Wild Card
Out of the way in the under-represented southwest. Albuquerque would welcome any number of Spanish-language speaking nations.
Also rans: Tuscaloosa, AL
Potential Team: Costa Rica
Day 13: The Games
I’m looking forward to the Nigeria Argentina game but I’m in DVR blackout mode.
On to the Beer:
South Korea take on Germany Wednesday, and since Die Mannschaft is likely to scorch the The Reds what better beer than a smoked Lagerbier. Schlenkerla is the most commonly available rauchbier in the U.S., offering their intensely beech-smoked marzen, an oak-smoked bock, a rauchweizen and, if you can get it, the unsmoked Lagerbier or Helles. This last beer uses no smoked malt but picks it up from the yeast pitched from smoked beers. Let’s try to enjoy this beer if you can find it. It’s an acquired taste, but one that is addictive if you’ve had a few half-liters in Bamberg.
92nd-minute consolation goal:
Let’s give a shoutout to all the brewer’s making session beers, whether they be English bitters, milds, American IPA, or some other low-alcohol concoction these hairy beasts conjure up. These are the beers to drink when you’re drinking a lot of beer. And summer tournament time is the best time to explore these small but often distinctive brews. Lion Bridge in Cedar Rapids deservedly has won international awards for their Compensation Mild, so get some of that if you’re in the area. Today’s honor, however, is not a beer on the shelves or local bar but a tireless homebrewer. Casey Mussman and his understanding wife Aimee routinely bring me samples of his excellent brews, often a mild of one form or another. Cheers to you guys!
SPINNING THE CUP with DJ Narthex
Open & Close
Artist: Fela Kuti and Africa ‘70
Album: Open & Close (1971)
I’m the youngest of four brothers, my late mother’s last run at having a daughter. When I was born, my brothers were 11, 9 and 6 years old.
Upon hearing that, most people wince and say something like, “Man, I bet you got beat up a lot.” Or something about having to fight for food.
The truth is, I don’t remember much of that. We’ve never been terribly close, but I liked my brothers. Still do.
And one of the great benefits of being around these particular guys was being surrounded by whatever music was coming out of their rooms over the years. And secretly playing their records while they were out.
One of my brothers was in college when I started really getting interested in music. And his college-rock record collection was my gateway for the first band I became fascinated with: Talking Heads. My first album purchase was Talking Heads ‘77; my first concert was the 1980 Fear of Music Tour; my first fan letter, in longhand and wholly ignored, was sent to David Byrne.
This is pretty good “first” cred, and I mention it smugly every chance I get. So now let’s go ahead and corrode that cred a little.
Like most Talking Heads fans at the time, I was intrigued by the African-inflected stylistic turn the band took about three or four albums in. It wasn’t the quirky, angular guitar pop from before. It was funky, jammy, repetitive, mysterious .... different. And eventually I loved it.
What the smug new-waver In me didn’t know, and didn’t bother to go looking for until years later, was where that sound came from. And where it came from, I’m told, was producer Brian Eno playing Fela Kuti records for the band. And David Byrne letting those rhythms take him somewhere else.
I’m glad of that, because Byrne and Eno helped prompt tons of reverse-discovery trips, like mine, into Fela’s music. And it’s a learning curve that remains steep and rewarding for me.
Fela (1938-1997), who lived most of his life in Nigeria, was and is a towering figure with global influence, melding West African music genres with western jazz and funk into a style called Afrobeat. He left behind a huge discography and, as an activist and dissident with a lifestyle routinely out step with the culture minders, was no stranger to controversy, political trouble and jail. His music and story are a very deep dig and worth it.
For lots of reasons, I really wanted Nigeria to get to the Group of 16. That late Argentina strike was a gut punch. I heard from my friend Diran on Wednesday night — he grew up in Lagos, He was pained by the result but equally buoyed by his side’s arresting play. He’s vowing that the Super Eagles will be back. I’m with him.
So let’s punctuate Nigeria’s fine showing with an early, energetic, Diran-approved cut from Fela. It’s worth every bit of the 15 minutes you’ll give it and, if you’re lucky, it’ll lead you to more of Fela Kuti’s endless groove.
Brazil and Serbia meet on Wednesday, time for a bit of Feijoada. The dish itself stems from the country’s history with slavery and was considered peasant food that was born out of necessity much like American soul food.
A black bean stew with the addition proteins like salt pork, beef, beef tongue, bacon, pork ribs, pork trimmings (trotters, ears, tails), jerked beef, and smoked sausage.
Some regional variations include vegetables like okra, cabbage, kale, carrots, potatoes, chayote, and pumpkin. It’s Traditionally served with rice and oranges on Saturday afternoons, Sunday lunch or as a celebratory dish it is served alongside an event, such as a big soccer match.
Well, that’s appropriate! Recipe.