“When we created FC Cincinnati, we said we were going to promote Cincinnati to the world and bring the world to Cincinnati,” Jeff Berding said. “The World Cup offers both opportunities.”
Berding, FCC’s president, established the MLS club five years ago next month. Now, he’s one of the biggest advocates for Cincinnati hosting 2026 FIFA World Cup matches six years from now.
On Tuesday, Cincinnati will be one of 17 cities participating in The FIFA World Cup 2026 Candidate Host City Workshop. Basically, it’ll be an overview of venues that could host matches and an opportunity to outline “focus areas of assessment” and provide more information regarding rules and procedures for the bidding process.
In 2018, FIFA, soccer’s governing body, voted in favor of the United Bid to host the 2026 men’s World Cup across North America. Featuring 48 teams for the first time in 2026, the tournament will spread across the continent, and the Queen City is a possible destination.
Soccer’s biggest tournament last came to the U.S. in 1994, and Berding said a lot has changed since that competition.
“Nineteen ninety-four was a generation ago and a lot has changed in this country, and certainly soccer has changed in this country since then,” Berding said. “I would offer that Cincinnati is one of the most successful soccer markets in the United States right now. What we’ve seen over the last five years, I would think that’s a success story that (the U.S. Soccer Federation) would want to show off because it shows the growth of soccer in our country to the rest of the world.”
Ten American cities will host matches in 2026, and The Sporting News said the Queen City should made the cut in an article published last month.
“Cincinnati kept its love for soccer well hidden until getting a team in the USL in 2015,” wrote Michael DeCourcy, who lived in the city previously. “It since has shown itself to be one of the most dynamic soccer cities in the U.S. – so much so MLS quickly granted an expansion franchise that ranked third in the league in attendance in 2019, FC Cincinnati’s initial season.”
The other American cities competing to host matches are Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, New York/New Jersey, Orlando, Philadelphia, San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle and Washington D.C.
Following Tuesday’s virtual workshop, each competing city will later host a workshop and venue visit. If Cincinnati is named a host city, matches will be played at Paul Brown Stadium to meet FIFA’s required stadium size of at least 40,000 seats. West End Stadium will have 26,000 seats when it opens next year.
“We’re certainly proud of what FC Cincinnati has accomplished and what Cincinnati has accomplished,” Berding said. This has been a club that’s grown organically in every way over the last five years. The biggest thing is we have a chip on our shoulder and we feel Cincinnati is underestimated.
“Soccer is not just limited to the biggest cities. It’s not just limited to the coastal elite. Soccer has grown all over the country, and in a surprising manner, maybe nowhere more so than Cincinnati.”