FIFA officials meet with Bay Area World Cup host committee in San Francisco

FIFA will continue to visit the locations bidding to be one of the lucky 9 to 10 U.S. cities to host the 2026 World Cup
SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- FIFA officials met with the Bay Area World Cup Host Committee on Friday in San Francisco and will tour Levi's Stadium on Saturday as the area makes their bid to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

This would be the largest international event the South Bay has ever hosted, but not the first time a major game came to town.

The office of San Jose Sports Authority Executive Director John Poch is filled with memories from the biggest sporting events to come to the area.

But, he would love to add a 2026 World Cup banner to his collection.

"Everything is ready for a world-class experience when visitors come," Poch said. "So this is, to me, without a doubt the ideal place for FIFA to be."

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The Bay Area Host Committee met with FIFA officials on Friday in an attempt to make the South Bay the home of soccer's biggest international event.

The Bay Area's bid to host the 2026 World Cup is backed by some big names like Salesforce, Google, Visa, Airbnb and others announced here. The mayors of Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose are also on-board.

LIST: Bay Area sports stadiums throughout the years

The San Francisco 49ers and Levi's Stadium are leading the charge.

"The 49ers have been proud stewards of the Bay Area for decades, and we've seen time after time how one of the most diverse regions in the world gets excited about major sporting events. The excitement and community spirit unique to the Bay Area has been directed at soccer for generations, going back to the FIFA World Cup matches the area hosted in 1994 and 1999, which were a huge success," 49ers President and Bay Area 2026 Board President Al Guido said in a statement. "There's no doubt in my mind the 2026 FIFA World Cup would inspire an even bigger response, and we're honored to be leading the Bay Area's bid to host this exciting, crowd-drawing event. Levi's Stadium is a world-class venue that has shown it's capable of hosting premier national and global events, and we would be a fantastic stage for the 2026 FIFA World Cup."

Poch says access to airports and hotels for guests, a billion dollar stadium with international soccer experience and a diverse area rich in soccer tradition makes our area a favorite.

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"Who else could say they've hosted a World Cup for men, a World Cup for women, the Olympic Games and then five NCAA championships?" Poch asked. "Plus you have a Major League soccer team and we had a Women's United soccer team that won the championship. So, to me, the South Bay is the hub for soccer in America."

Perhaps no one would love to see the World Cup return more than Santa Clara University Women's Soccer Coach Jerry Smith. The game is in his blood.

He worked with Brazil as a site coordinator and France on the technical report team when SCU was a host location as part of the 1994 men's World Cup.

Five years later, his wife and the U.S. Women's National team would go on a historic run that ran through Stanford Stadium.

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Her iconic celebration made worldwide headlines. You may recognize her name: Brandi Chastain.

Coach Smith believes 2026 will be the year the World Cup returns to the Bay and both he and his wife would love to see it.

"That women's World Cup in 1999 captivated the world and the men's World Cup, every four years, captivates the world," Coach Smith said. "To be able to do that and do that here in the San Francisco Bay Area at Levi's Stadium in our city of Santa Clara would just be amazing."

After this weekend, Poch says FIFA will continue to visit the locations bidding to be one of the lucky 9-10 U.S. cities to host the 2026 World Cup.

If all goes well, he says we'll learn if Levi's Stadium makes that cut early this spring.

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