Baltimore Makes Its Pitch to FIFA to Host 2026 World Cup

| July 27, 2020 | 0 Comments

Baltimore-Maryland 2026 World Cup Host Destination Delegation press relase: 

Led by Maryland Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford and Maryland Sports Executive Director Terry Hasseltine, the Baltimore-Maryland 2026 World Cup Host Destination Delegation met virtually with representatives from FIFA and the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) Monday, July 20, to present their plans to secure and execute the 2026 FIFA World Cup™ at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland.

“Maryland has a tremendous opportunity to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup™ in Baltimore. From its cutting edge sports venues & world-class attractions, to its diverse population & cultural experiences, Baltimore is the perfect FIFA World Cup™ host city. I look forward to continuing to work with our partners to bring this opportunity to Maryland and showcase Charm City to the world,” said Maryland Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford.

“The FIFA World Cup™ is a once in a generation event, it’s the biggest sporting event in the world, by far,” said Terry Hasseltine, Executive Director of the Maryland Sports Commission, adding, “For people across the world, the World Cup is their Super Bowl, and right now, Baltimore, Maryland has a chance to host an event of that magnitude. And we’re going to do whatever we can to make that a reality for this City and this State.”

Joining Lt. Governor Rutherford and Hasseltine were Roy Sommerhof, Senior Vice President of Stadium Operations for the Baltimore Ravens, Al Hutchinson, President & CEO at Visit Baltimore, and Michael J. Frenz, Executive Director of the Maryland Stadium Authority.

“As a member of the committee, I was excited to have the opportunity to tell Baltimore’s story to the representatives of FIFA. I believe the recent improvements the Ravens have made to M&T Bank Stadium will serve to strengthen Baltimore’s World Cup bid effort,” said Sommerhof.

“Visit Baltimore is honored to be part of the Baltimore-Maryland 2026 World Cup Host Destination Delegation and presentation to FIFA and the USSF. Baltimore is a proud sports town and with two major league stadiums in the heart of downtown, it’s the perfect destination for sports fans. Visitors can easily immerse themselves in Baltimore’s vibrant culture and meet the locals driving our city’s renaissance through chef-driven restaurants, locally owned boutiques and world-renowned attractions. From most downtown hotels, you are within walking distance of the city’s tourism district and M&T Bank Stadium,” said Hutchinson.

As a result of restrictions and adherence to regulations due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the presentation – initially planned to be an in-person site visit of Baltimore City and M&T Bank Stadium – was instead hosted virtually across multiple local and international locations.

“While we would have loved the opportunity to welcome FIFA and the U.S. Soccer Federation in-person, to show them firsthand how incredible the City of Baltimore and the State of Maryland are, we also recognize that with Covid-19 we are facing an unprecedented scenario, and it was up to our entire team to sell the area virtually. I think we did a phenomenal job of that,” said Hasseltine.

The Baltimore-Maryland Host Delegation has been meeting remotely via video conference over the last few weeks in preparation for the meeting. Hasseltine says the group decided on the theme of “Why Baltimore” as a focus of their presentation, spotlighting specific topics as recommended in previous exchanges and workgroups outlined by FIFA and USSF officials.

“Our main focal point is our venue, M&T Bank Stadium, and how it serves as the ‘Heartbeat’ of Baltimore City. It’s one of a small number of facilities in the running which is located within the limits of its ‘Host City’,” said Hasseltine, adding, “The upgrades to the complex over the last few years – and those in the works for the next decade – ensure that our stadium will remain one of the most beloved venues in all of sports. But more than that, people love M&T Bank Stadium because it’s easy to get to, it’s easy to walk to, it’s easy to reach by the Light Rail system or the MARC train. And it doesn’t hurt that it’s less than 10 miles from BWI-Marshall Airport, with nearly 20,000 hotel rooms around and in between, many of which are within walking distance of the stadium itself.”

The Baltimore-Maryland Delegation placed a great amount of focus on the accessibility and hospitality options around Baltimore City, and their incredibly close proximity to M&T Bank Stadium. Not only are these local businesses within walking distance of the venue, they also allow for incredible flexibility when it comes to potential Fan Festival locations and activation sites.

A major focal point of the meeting was the eclectic and diverse populations that make up the communities within and surrounding Baltimore City. During the presentation, Hutchinson mentioned that Baltimore has more than 250 neighborhoods, with each having their own unique restaurants, shops, culture and arts scene.

Within the delegation’s marketing materials is a distinctively unique messaging brand which pays homage to the area’s vibrant arts community. The branding consists of a teal background with a flamingo, crab and soccer player donning a “Hon-styled” hair do. Hasseltine told FIFA and USSF officials, “The teal background represents sustainability and our commitment to environmental and green initiatives. The soccer player represents the people of the great state of Maryland. The flamingo represents our arts and heritage community, and the crab, of course, represents our waterways, our food, and our traditions”, to which Hutchinson later added, “and of course the best crab cakes in the world.”

“Baltimore, Maryland’s DNA provides a ripe environment to nurture, identify and champion international talent. An opportunity to host a World Cup is something that only comes once in a life and Baltimoreans need to use this as a catalyst for achieving international development goals, increasing business opportunities and for strengthening bilateral relations and its image globally,”said Olubunmi U. Jinadu, Group CEO, Interglobe Entertainment Group/ United Soccer Africa.

There was also discussion about ongoing and upcoming development projects around the Inner Harbor and South Baltimore, as well as current projects underway at both BWI-Marshall Airport and Penn Station, respectively.

Following a short video presentation, FIFA and USSF officials submitted questions to the delegation to be answered at a later date. There was also discussion of a future in-person site visit in either late 2020 or early 2021, depending on travel restrictions in place due to Covid-19.

Baltimore is one of seventeen cities in the United States hoping to be awarded match play for the 2026 FIFA World Cup™. The United States is part of the North American United Bid Effort, which also includes Canada and Mexico as sites for match play.

FIFA is expected to choose ten cities in the United States to host match play for the 2026 World Cup™ and three apiece in Canada and Mexico, respectively. That number, however, could be adjusted by FIFA at any time in the selection process.  A date for an announcement of chosen host cities has not been announced.

The FIFA World Cup™was last played in the United States in 1994, two years before the construction of M&T Bank Stadium in Downtown Baltimore. photo

About the Author:

News releases from various sources around South Baltimore.