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The early week showers parted Thursday morning, as if on cue, making way for a postcard-perfect sunny day as FIFA officials came to Miami for a whirlwind 2026 World Cup site inspection.
They were greeted by enthusiastic local politicians and soccer officials, including Inter Miami co-owners Jorge Mas, who made a pitch in person, and David Beckham, who lives part-time in downtown Miami and recorded a passionate video plea to bring the World Cup to his adopted city.
Miami is among 17 cities in contention for 10 or 11 U.S. game sites. Mexico is expected to have three venues and Canada two or three as the three nations co-host the event.
In addition to an extensive tour of Hard Rock Stadium, the delegation broke into groups and visited four potential training venues — FIU, which is home of the USL’s Miami FC; Barry University, which has hosted training for the U.S. national team and big-name clubs; the Dolphins’ new training facility the Baptist Health Training Complex; and Inter Miami’s complex in Fort Lauderdale, which features eight fields, a 50,000-square foot training facility and the 18,000-seat DRV PNK Stadium.
Officials also inspected Lummus Park, the Miami Beach Convention Center and Bayfront Park in Downtown Miami as potential venues for a Fan Fest.
“The World Cup is not only the biggest football event in the world, it’s the biggest sporting event in the world,” said FIFA vice president and CONCACAF pesident Vince Montagliani. “We’re here to do our due diligence. We all know Miami has hosted many, many big events. It’s an international city.
“The diversity in the city, and the fact that now that you have an MLS team, it’s obviously a destination for this sport.”
Miami, which has hosted a record 11 Super Bowls and is a gateway to Latin America, is considered a likely front-runner along with Boston, Washington, Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York/New Jersey and Dallas and/or Houston.
Hard Rock Stadium was built to FIFA specifications by Joe Robbie and renovated by Stephen Ross to resemble a European soccer venue. It has hosted sellout crowds for South American national team matches as well as games involving marquee clubs like FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United and Bayern Munich.
Miami was not a host city for the 1994 Cup because of schedule conflicts with the Marlins, who played at the stadium at the time.
“Years ago, Steve Ross and I sat down and there was a vision to turn this place into a global entertainment destination, and thanks to hundreds of millions of dollars of private investment, we have a facility that is built to host these kinds of events,” said Miami Dolphins president and CEO Tom Garfinkel.
Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava added: “We are paradise, and so passionate about soccer. We’re a global destination, we have 75 languages, people from every country that grew up and embraced soccer as their primary sport.”
Other cities bidding are Philadelphia, Baltimore, Orlando, Nashville, Cincinnati, Kansas City, Denver, the Bay Area, and Seattle.
Montagliani stressed that Miami and Orlando could both be selected, even though they are in the same state, as team and fan mobility are factors. “There’s no prejudice having two candidates in one state. Absolutely not.”
Miami was the ninth city the delegates have visited. The others were Atlanta, Boston, Nashville, Orlando, Washington, Baltimore, New York/New Jersey, Philadelphia. They will visit the rest in October and November. They plan to announce the winning cities in early 2022.
“You break down each of our customer groups, clients who consume a World Cup, we then go through their customer journey and need to deliver every single aspect,” said Colin Smith, FIFA chief of tournaments and events.
“For teams, pitches are the first thing. We need to provide state-of-the-art pitches, not only in the stadium but also in the training sites. For media, we need broadcast facilities. The Fan Fest has become a huge part of big events for those that cannot get to the stadium — a great way for people to get together and enjoy the World Cup en masse.”
In addition, the committee will consider the area’s airports, transportation, accommodations, safety and security, and stadium sustainability.
“Miami is an ideal host city for the World Cup because we embody FIFA’s ideals,” Mas said. “We’re a cultural mosaic, a diverse community. We’re a bilingual city. But most importantly is our engagement with youth and what we’re doing to make the game available to all.
“Hard Rock is phenomenal, they will have our world-class Inter Miami facility, and hopefully by 2026 there will be another venue, which is Miami Freedom Park. So, we’re uniquely positioned to offer FIFA something that, frankly, other cities cannot.”
Source: Miami herald
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