Maryland Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford and Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott will co-chair the effort to bring the FIFA World Cup to M&T Bank Stadium in 2026, calling the bid a “strategic priority” because of its potential economic impact on the state and city.
They announced their partnership Thursday on the field where World Cup games would be played in five years, touting the existing infrastructure around the stadium as an advantage over other North American cities bidding for the event.
“FIFA can have total and absolute confidence in Baltimore to deliver technically perfect World Cup matches that will have wide-ranging community benefits on and off the field,” Scott said. “We can do this here, we can do it now, and we can do it better.”
Rutherford called the World Cup bid a “unique opportunity to showcase our city and state on a world stage.”
Representatives for FIFA, the body that governs international soccer, will visit Baltimore sometime between mid-September and late November to tour the stadium and hear a fuller version of the pitch that state officials initiated at a virtual meeting last year. Host cities are expected to be announced by late winter or spring of next year.
Baltimore made the initial list of 23 potential sites for the 48-team event in 2018. Washington, which hosted World Cup games the last time the event came to the U.S. in 1994, is also on the list, which will be narrowed to 16 cities.
Baltimore could host between five and seven games over the course of the 30-day event and would also serve as home base for several national teams and their fan bases.
If successful, the bid would cost the state and city “under $100 million” but could create “in excess of $300 million” in economic impact, said Terry Hasseltine, president of the “Baltimore 2026” campaign.
Rutherford and Scott said the effort would include transportation improvements and the development of youth programs that would continue to benefit the Baltimore area after the games are over. Scott called it a “catalyst for how we will continue to grow and improve our city.”
Ravens president Dick Cass also spoke at the event Thursday, saying M&T Bank Stadium would require “very few modifications” to host the World Cup but added that the team is committed to working with the Maryland Stadium Authority on any necessary upgrades.
“We need to get behind this,” Cass said. “It’s important to our city.”