Baltimore was named one of 34 potential American host cities Tuesday for a combined bid from the United States, Canada and Mexico for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.
M&T Bank Stadium was among 49 stadiums in 44 cities identified by the United Bid Committee as a potential venue for soccer's most popular showcase. Cities have until Sept. 5 to declare their interest in taking part in the bid process, as Baltimore is expected to do. The committee also requested information on transportation infrastructure and experience hosting major sporting and cultural events from the cities named potential host sites.
Terry Hasseltine, executive director of Maryland Sports, an agency of the Maryland Stadium Authority, said the city was notified of its status last month and that a response is being prepared.
"When it's all said and done, M&T Bank Stadium is an ideal venue for the World Cup," Hasseltine said. "Our city of Baltimore logistically lines up to be a robust city should games be played in M&T Bank Stadium."
The committee will create a short list of interested host sites in late September before those cities prepare a final bid in January. The official united bid for the tournament, due to FIFA by March 16, will have 20 to 25 stadiums on it. At least 12 locations could ultimately host games.
Under the joint bid, the United States would host 60 of the 80 World Cup matches, with Mexico and Canada splitting the remaining 20. Morocco is the only other country to have declared its intention to bid for the 2026 World Cup, which will be the first in which the tournament field expands from 32 to 48 teams. A final decision is expected in June.
All stadiums under consideration must have at least 40,000 seats for group-stage matches and at least 80,000 for the opening match and final. M&T Bank Stadium, which most recently hosted CONCACAF Gold Cup matches in 2015, has a capacity of 71,008. Hasseltine said the Ravens, who operate the venue, have cooperated fully with the bid, as have city and state officials.
Venues in Landover, Philadelphia, New Jersey and Pittsburgh are also among the potential host cities, and Hasseltine acknowledged that there likely would be a "natural attraction" among organizers to playing in the Northeast Corridor. He said Maryland Sports would do "everything in our power to make the short list."
"We've got to worry about what we can do for the city of Baltimore and the state of Maryland putting M&T Bank Stadium forward in this process," he said. "And when we look at the competitors, we know they're out there, and we know they're going to try to do the exact same thing."