Confetti blanketed the field at Levi’s Stadium, champagne corks popped and cheers went up as FIFA President Gianni Infantino announced the San Francisco Bay Area as one of the Western U.S. cities to host 2026 World Cup events — the biggest sports event in the world, drawing international audiences that number in the billions.
San José Earthquakes President Jared Shawlee spoke for many there when he said, “It’s going to take four years just to wipe this smile off my face.”
The last time the San Francisco Bay Area hosted the premiere soccer event was 1994. That was the event that sparked the Bay Area interest in professional soccer, and as it returns this year it will be bringing the action to Santa Clara’s Levi’s Stadium.
A bevy of celebrities and politicians were at Levi’s Stadium Thursday afternoon as FIFA’s decision was announced. Bay Area soccer stars Brandi Chastain, John Doyle, Leslie Osborne and Danielle Slaton were on hand; as were Bay Area State Assembly Members Evan Low (who now represents Santa Clara) and Mark Berman, and Santa Clara City Council Members Anthony Becker, Raj Chahal, Karen Hardy and Kevin Park.
“We’re proud to say we’ve been able to host some of the biggest sports events like the Super Bowl and the College Football Playoffs,” said Council Member Anthony Becker.
“But the World Cup is a whole different level,” continued Becker. “It will transform Santa Clara and the Bay Area. It will bring business to our hotels, restaurants and bars, and it will create thousands of jobs. This is stimulus our businesses need, coming out of COVID. We should not underestimate how important this win is for our community.”
Raj Chahal noted that the first time he watched the World Cup was from his college dorm.
“I would never have believed that that someday I’d be watching the watching the World Cup here, in my own city,” said Chahal
Heading up the World Cup effort is Bay Area Host Committee VP and Executive Director Patricia Ernstrom. She played a key role in Super Bowl 50, the 2015 NHL Stadium Series, the Copa America Centenario, and College Football Playoff National Championship Game. The Bay Area bid for the month-long event has been in the works since 2018 when FIFA announced North America as the location for the 2026 World Cup.
“This World Cup will be bigger in every way,” Ernstrom said. “Over one billion people watched the last World Cup. In 2026 we will deliver the finest World Cup the world has ever seen.”