Minneapolis can still play a role in the 2026 World Cup

A team could train at the National Sports Center and at Allianz Field

Jared Goyette
June 13, 2018 - 1:15 pm

While Minneapolis pulled out of the running as as host city for the 2026 World Cup, the Twin Cities can still play a role in the world’s biggest sporting event — as a home away from home for one of the teams competing.

Tony Sanneh, a St. Paul native and member of the 2002 World Cup who served on the Minneapolis bid committee, explained the possibility during an interview with WCCO Radio morning host Dave Lee.

“I think we are still in the bidding to be a host site for a team, so there may be a team or two that has Minneapolis as their training site for a time and they will train at the National Sports Center and our new soccer stadium,” Sanneh said.

Minnesota United’s soccer-specific stadium, Allianz Field, is set to open in St. Paul’s Midway neighborhood next year. MNUFC’s CEO Chris Wright sees the tournament as a “tremendous opportunity” to grow the game in the US.

“It’s arguably the world’s largest sporting event. Bigger than the Olympics. Four or five times bigger than the Superbowl in terms of ratings, and eyeballs and people watching this,” the told Lee.

The tournament was awarded to the US, Mexico and Canada  by a vote of FIFA member nations on Wednesday. FIFA will determine which cities across the three nations will host games, with 23 sites still in the running.

One possible upside for the Twin Cities as a training location is that it’s roughly equidistant from potential games sites in Canada, and the west and east coast of the US. With the 2026 tournament occurring over such a large area of land, teams will inevitably have to fly to games — including any team based in Minnesota.

“They will essentially live in Minnesota during the World Cup and fly to whatever cities they have their games in,” Sanneh said.

The World Cup was last in the U.S. in 1994, a tournament that is now arguably best remembered best for two penalty misses — that of Italy’s Roberto Baggio in the final, which allowed Brazil to win its fifth title, and that of singer Diana Ross during the opening ceremony.