FIFA announced Thursday that Gillette Stadium will serve as one of the 16 host venues for the men’s FIFA World Cup in 2026.
Foxborough was also a venue for the only other American men’s World Cup. Six matches were held at Foxboro Stadium in 1994, including the final World Cup playing appearances of Argentina’s Diego Maradona and a memorable quarterfinal between Spain and Italy. Foxboro Stadium also served as a host venue for the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 1999; Gillette hosted in 2003.
Bringing Cup matches back to Foxborough has been a long time coming. Initially, local advocates were part of the US group that was eyeing the 2022 World Cup, but when that tournament was awarded to Qatar, the focus shifted four years on.
Brian Bilello, the president of both Boston Soccer 2026 and the New England Revolution, said that while serving as a successful host venue in 1994 was part of their pitch, ultimately the “soccer legacy” of the area was also part of the conversation.
“If you look at the rich soccer history of the area — going all the way back to the 1920s and ‘30s — that played a role,” he said. “How far back our legacy with soccer goes, and obviously with the Revs being an original MLS team — one of the first teams in the league, and with the Kraft family being one of the first owners to help launch the league — that’s part of it.
“You layer that with the interest and popularity and fan base from around the world, as well as the Massachusetts Youth Soccer Association, and it just shows an ecosystem of soccer that’s been developing in this region for 100 years.”
Bilello doesn’t anticipate hosting a semifinal or the final, saying there are “venue and size requirements” for those, but he does have a target in mind.
“Four to six games is the sort of range we are thinking of,” he said. “We’re obviously hoping for as many games as possible, but four to six games is the range we are anticipating.”
Those could be a boon to the local economy. The Boston Consulting Group’s research has estimated that Boston can expect an estimated 450,000 visitors hailing from Europe, South America, and across the globe for the matches, with a projected net economic impact of up to $500 million.
“The FIFA World Cup is a global event, and our world class city is ecstatic to once again host these iconic matches,” said Martha J. Sheridan, president and CEO of the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Hosting these matches will inject tremendous spending into our visitor economy, which will ripple out across the region.”
“We are thrilled to welcome FIFA World Cup soccer back to Massachusetts in 2026,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “The teams and their fans from around the world will be welcomed by the Commonwealth’s restaurants and attractions both in Boston and beyond and we are appreciative of Robert Kraft for his efforts as honorary chair of the United Bid to help bring the World Cup back to the United States, as well as the Boston Soccer 2026 Committee for its tireless work to secure Boston as a host city.”
“The City of Boston is excited to once again welcome the worldwide soccer community and visitors as the FIFA World Cup returns to Massachusetts,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “We’re proud of our long legacy of championship teams and fans, and we’re ready to showcase our city to soccer fans around the world as they come to celebrate the beautiful game.”
While there’s still plenty of time until 2026, Bilello says the real work will start Monday when representatives from the 16 host cities fly to New York to meet with FIFA officials and learn about the next steps in the process.
“We’re starting right away,” Bilello said.
The 2026 tournament will be the largest to date, featuring a record 48 teams and 80 total matches. Qualification among more than 200 countries will take place from 2023-2025, with the US, Mexico, and Canada — the first-ever tri-hosts for the finals — all automatically receiving spots.
Joining Foxborough — one of the East Region sites — in hosting matches will be:
West: Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco/Bay Area, Los Angeles, Guadalajara.
Central: Kansas City, Dallas, Atlanta, Houston, Monterrey, Mexico City.
East: Toronto, Philadelphia, Miami, New York/New Jersey.
The six cities that campaigned for bids and were excluded were Washington, D.C./Baltimore, Cincinnati, Denver, Edmonton, Nashville, and Orlando.
Christopher Price can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at cpriceglobe.