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Baltimore 'ready, willing and able' to host FIFA World Cup games in 2026

With the continental governing body that oversees the U.S., Canadian and Mexican soccer associations reportedly asking FIFA to fast-track the nations' joint bid for the World Cup, American soccer fans could be looking ahead to the 2026 match schedule as soon as this year.

City officials, too. The U.S.-led bid, launched Monday, expects 60 games to be played stateside, with 10 in Canada and 10 in Mexico. Sunil Gulati, president of the United States Soccer Federation, said he favors more venues hosting games in 2026, but that specifics on where are undetermined. 

Consider Baltimore interested. 

"Baltimore and M&T Bank Stadium are ready, willing and able to take on the task of hosting games during the World Cup," Michael Frenz, executive director of the Maryland Stadium Authority, told WJZ on Wednesday. He estimated that the city would make tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue from hosting games. 

Even as high-profile club matches have eluded Baltimore in recent years, M&T Bank Stadium has hosted international games regularly. 

In 2015, an announced 37,994 watched the U.S. men's national team rout Cuba, 6-0, and Jamaica edge Haiti, 1-0, in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, less than 54 percent of the 71,000-seat stadium's capacity. 

Two years earlier, an announced 70,540 came to Baltimore to see the United States beat El Salvador, 5-1, and Honduras top Costa Rica, 1-0, in the Gold Cup quarterfinals.

In 2009, a World Football Challenge match between England's Chelsea and Italy's AC Milan drew a sellout crowd of 71,203 to M&T Bank Stadium. The fan support got the attention of the USSF, which named named Baltimore one of 18 finalists to hold future World Cup matches.

Viewership of international games in the city also has been impressive. Baltimore was among the top 11 TV markets nationwide for the 2014 World Cup and finished sixth in average audience for all seven U.S. games in the 2015 Women's World Cup. 

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