Chicago has withdrawn from the effort to bring the 2026 World Cup to North America, a spokesman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Wednesday.
Soldier Field was one of 32 potential venues on a list released last year by the joint bid committee that’s vying to bring the world’s biggest sporting event to the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
But Emanuel spokesman Matt McGrath said Chicago had pulled out of the joint bid and would not host any World Cup games, even if FIFA chooses to bring the tournament to North America in 8 years.
“FIFA could not provide a basic level of certainty on some major unknowns that put our city and taxpayers at risk,” the mayor’s office said in a statement Wednesday. “The uncertainty for taxpayers, coupled with FIFA’s inflexibility and unwillingness to negotiate, were clear indications that further pursuit of the bid wasn’t in Chicago’s best interests.”
A spokesman for U.S. Soccer, Neil Buethe, declined to comment on Chicago’s withdrawal from the bid, saying the final list of potential venues would be released Thursday.
The 2026 tournament will be the first 48-team World Cup and Chicago, with its central location, diversity and infrastructure, figured to be a good bet to get games in the expanded event.
But the American-Canadian-Mexican bid, once considered a shoo-in to win the rights to host the tournament, is in danger of losing out to Morocco when FIFA executives cast their votes later this year, ESPN reported recently.
Officials in Vancouver also said Wednesday that the Canadian city — which was another of the 32 finalists — would no longer be part of the joint bid.
Soldier Field hosted the opening game and four other matches during the 1994 World Cup, the only time that the U.S. has hosted the tournament.
But in January 2010, city officials pulled Chicago out of the U.S.’ ultimately unsuccessful bid for the World Cup in either 2018 or 2022. At that time, officials said then-Mayor Richard M. Daley’s administration dropped out because the city declined to promise to spend an estimated $10 million likely required to host games.