World Cup fever is here. While Team USA failed to qualify this time, we’ve just been selected to host (along with Mexico and Canada) the 2026 tournament. This is a big opportunity, and I hope we use it well.
In the US, we spread our sports fandom across so many sports — none of them can compare to the importance soccer has abroad. While foreigners see success on the soccer as critical matter of national pride, Americans might not even notice that we missed the World Cup. Italians must feel so humiliated that they failed to qualify. They need the prestige, and fortunately, we don’t. We have plenty of other things to take pride in. We dominate basketball, the Olympics, and global pop culture. We’re competitive in almost everything.
Soccer is clearly growing in the US. I was surprised to learn that American fans were among the top purchasers of tickets to games in Russia. But while soccer is growing, it’s still way behind football, basketball, and baseball in popularity. Until that changes, nobody should expect to see Team USA lifting a World Cup trophy.
There are so many sports options for American kids, it’s hard for soccer to compete for their attention, and that makes it hard for us to win. To compete with powers like Brazil and Germany, more of our young athletes need to choose soccer. When the next Tom Brady, LeBron James, etc. choose soccer, our World Cup fortunes will change. That takes time, and it can only happen organically.
Hosting a World Cup might be the best way to accelerate that process. The players who will compete in 2026 might be as young as 10 years old right now. Today’s gifted high school student could be our 2026 hero. Developing that talent in the next few years will determine our fate.
Regardless of how well we do on the field, hosting the 2026 World Cup should be a big win for the country. The tournament will attract tens of thousands of tourists to cities across the country. Some people rightfully question the value of hosting big tournaments (including the Olympics) because of the expense of preparing for them. But by spreading this World Cup across all of North America, we should avoid the need for wasteful excess infrastructure. Our current stadiums, hotels, and transportation options are enough, and that means a net gain for the US economy.
It’s a shame that we’re missing this World Cup, but no big deal. There’s always next time, and our star is rising.