Throughout the year, post after post on this blog has detailed the trials and tribulations of the 2022 World Cup, which is currently slated to be held in the Middle Eastern nation of Qatar. From internal disputes among FIFA board members to the sweltering summer heat and the unprecedented proposed move of the World Cup to the winter—in the middle of the club soccer season—it is safe to say that the 2022 World Cup has been nothing short of a disaster thus far.
As the saga surrounding Qatar rages on, many pundits across the soccer landscape have argued for a change of venue. What if no resolution can be reached on summer versus winter? What if they run into issues regarding infrastructure, tourism or the regulation of alcohol sales in a conservative Islamic nation? Should FIFA deem that a last-minute change of the host nation is necessary for 2022, one of the leading candidates to host the cup would be the United States, which was shut out of its bids for both the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. At this point, the United States would make sense because it already has a multitude of venues that would work and its developed infrastructure and transportation systems would be beneficial to host the tournament.
So this begs the question: if the United States had to host the World Cup in 2022, where would the matches be played? Here are my picks for the 10 venues to host matches in the 2022 World Cup, some of which may surprise you:
1. CenturyLink Field
Location: Seattle, Washington
This is a fairly obvious choice for a World Cup venue. CenturyLink Field is set in the beautiful and soccer-crazed city of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest is home to some of the rowdiest soccer fans in North America. The venue is sizable and features a scenic view of the Seattle skyline, and the summertime temperatures are often very manageable. As far as soccer venues go, this one is a no-brainer.
2. Rose Bowl
Location: Pasadena, California
It doesn’t get much more iconic than the Rose Bowl. Sitting in Southern California and just outside one of the largest and most diverse cities in the United States, the Rose Bowl held more than 93,000 fans for the championship match of the 2011 Gold Cup between the U.S. and Mexico. As one of the classic American sporting venues, the Rose Bowl cannot be left out of the World Cup picture.
3. AT&T Stadium
Location: Dallas, Texas
Expandable up to 105,000, the $1 billion stadium (known by most as the JerryDome after famed owner Jerry Jones) has raised the bar on sporting venues since it first opened in 2009. Jones has always tried to push the bar on holding bigger events (like seating more than 108,000 people for the 2010 NBA All-Star Game), so the World Cup sounds like a logical next step here. Plus, fans get to take in the irony of watching 5-foot-4 Lionel Messi play on a video board that is 72 feet wide and 160 feet high. After all, everything is bigger in Texas.
4. Arrowhead Stadium
Location: Kansas City, Missouri
Kansas City may be the first surprise on this list of host cities, but as far as MLS cities go, Kansas City is home to one of the most passionate soccer fanbases in the country. Arrowhead Stadium is one of the most difficult places to play in the NFL and would make for a great atmosphere for a World Cup match. For those who would be in favor of a soccer-only venue in this case, Sporting Kansas City’s home field is well below the FIFA-mandated 40,000-seat minimum capacity for a World Cup stadium. Nestled in the heart of the Midwest, Kansas City would make a great host city, as long as some of the world’s top footballers don’t get too full on the ribs before a match.
5. Soldier Field
Location: Chicago, Illinois
With its scenic view of Lake Michigan and wide array of restaurants, culture and night life, Chicago would make a great host city for a World Cup. Although Wrigley Field was a site for the NHL’s Winter Classic recently, Soldier Field provides a better layout and atmosphere for a World Cup match where the stadium is meant to be divided between multiple sets of fans.
6. The Horseshoe
Location: Columbus, Ohio
This one may also come as a surprise, but Columbus, Ohio would make an excellent World Cup site. The city played host to matches during the 2013 Gold Cup and was an excellent choice. Columbus is home to the Columbus Crew, which has a rowdy and passionate group of fans, and although their home stadium would be too small to host World Cup matches, being able to use The Horseshoe provides the best of both worlds—a large venue that is one of the most iconic stadiums in college football. All of a sudden, Columbus starts to seem like a much better fit.
7. MetLife Stadium
Location: East Rutherford, New Jersey
Let’s be honest—love it or hate it, there is no way that New York isn’t making this list. Nothing says America like a backdrop of the Statue of Liberty, even if it is from across the river in New Jersey. If this stadium can play host to the Super Bowl in the frigid cold this February, a World Cup match shouldn’t be any problem. Considering New York is often referred to as a city of immigrants, the turnout for these matches would definitely have the most international flavor of the entire tournament.
8. FedEx Field
Location: Landover, Maryland
You can’t hold the World Cup without playing some matches in our nation’s capital. Washington D.C. doesn’t have a rich soccer history by any stretch, but I bet you could get a lot of foreign diplomats out to see the games there, which could lead to some interesting bets (or impending military conflicts) between rival nations on the soccer pitch. In general, hosting an event of this magnitude in Washington D.C. does have most liability from a national security standpoint, but having future President Grant Hill cheer on the Americans in the World Cup would be a memorable moment.
9. Sun Life Stadium
Location: Miami, Florida
A city with so much Latin American influence should be a shoe-in to host a World Cup match. Picture a match with Mexico or Puerto Rico being played in Miami—the crowd would go wild. Miami can’t come close to filling their stadium for the Dolphins or Marlins, and even Heat fans tend to walk out before the end of games, but if the World Cup took its talents to South Beach the tournament would be a party all the way down Calle Ocho.
10. Candlestick Park
Location: San Francisco, California
With its proximity to a large city and the San Francisco Bay, the home of the 49ers is my final choice as a World Cup venue in 2022. Although the most scenic sporting venue in San Francisco is without a doubt the Giants’ AT&T Park, the stadium layout is less conducive for the fan experience at a soccer match.
Have better ideas for potential World Cup venues? Post them in the comments below.