The 2026 Men’s World Cup schedule was announced on Sunday, with the big reveal that the greater New York area — MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., to put some respect on the name — will host the tournament’s final after speculation that greater Dallas could stage the big game.
Women’s soccer fans should make note of Sunday’s announcement, too. The United States and Mexico have jointly bid on the 2027 Women’s World Cup (excluding 2026 co-host Canada, which staged the 2015 Women’s World Cup). The U.S.-Mexico joint bid is up against a bid from Brazil, which hosted the 2014 men’s tournament, and a joint bid by Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands.
Bid books for each of the three competing entities revealed hypothetical host cities and stadiums, but Sunday’s official schedule for the 2026 Men’s World Cup provides tangible insight into how the U.S., Mexico and FIFA could stage a Women’s World Cup the following year if the bid is selected.
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Regionalization is a given
The United States is vast enough. Adding Mexico and Canada to the hosting territory only compounds issues of long travel for teams. The schedule for the 2026 Men’s World Cup schedule addressed this by creating three regional clusters of cities: East, Central and West. Organizers aimed to minimize travel as much as possible in the group stage and mostly adhere to those regions.
Any future World Cup in the U.S. would do the same. The 2023 Women’s World Cup informally utilized this, with four groups playing strictly in New Zealand and four groups playing strictly in Australia. Detracting from those regionalization efforts was Australia’s addition of Perth as the only host city on the country’s West Coast. It would be like holding a U.S. event entirely on the East Coast but then adding Los Angeles for a few unlucky teams to shuttle to and from. Still, the general idea was in place.
A prospective 2027 Women’s World Cup should take a similar approach — albeit with fewer host cities and fewer teams than the preceding men’s edition. The 2026 Men’s World Cup will feature 48 teams for the first time; the 2027 Women’s World Cup, wherever it is played, will feature 32 teams. Canada also wouldn’t be hosting any games, as it will host in 2026.
Big stadiums are a go
The U.S.-Mexico joint bid states that organizers “believe we can sell out high-capacity stadiums for every match, with most of the venues over 65,000.” Likely, that would mean utilizing many of the same venues already lined up for the year prior. There are valid concerns about taxing resources for local governments in back-to-back years but there is a stronger argument to be made for turning around a year later and replicating success in the same stadium and city, with a proven plan. That could appeal to FIFA, as well.
All but two of the host cities detailed in the 2027 bid book are already confirmed hosts for men’s games in 2026, the exceptions both being in Mexico: León, where the stadium holds 32,800, and Querétaro, where the stadium holds 34,130 fans. Again, the cities are not finalized, but they are included strategically.
The 2027 Women’s World Cup schedule will look different, with fewer teams and games than the 2026 men’s edition, but the host cities could end up being quite similar. If this is the case, expect most games in the U.S. if the bid wins, with Estadio Azteca in Mexico City hosting the opening match, just as they will in 2026.
Where would the U.S. play?
Here’s where things get interesting. The U.S. men are slated to open the 2026 World Cup in Los Angeles, then play in Seattle and return to LA to end the group stage. The final is in New Jersey and the pathway there could put the Americans in several other cities along the way. Like with the pathway drawn up for New Zealand last year, that is likely wishful thinking, but it is important to keep in mind for the U.S. women. As shaky as the U.S. women looked at last year’s World Cup, they will undoubtedly still be contenders in 2027 and could be favorites as co-hosts (especially if given new life under impending head coach Emma Hayes).
In 1999, when the U.S. hosted the Women’s World Cup for the first time, tournament organizers laid out a plan that put the Americans on a national tour meant to grow the game. It did just that; 1999 left an indelible impact on soccer in the United States and women’s sports globally. The women’s game has evolved since, and there is no need to replicate that grueling schedule.
The U.S. opened the 1999 World Cup in East Rutherford, N.J. (in the old Giants Stadium) and then traveled to Chicago and greater Boston (Foxborough) to finish up the group. The Americans won the group as expected and proceeded to win a quarterfinal in greater Washington, D.C., before flying west for a semifinal in the Bay Area and the final in greater LA.
A 2027 World Cup might end up laying out a similar path for the U.S., but travel should be of greater concern than it was in 1999. There are also twice as many teams in the tournament now (there were 16 in 1999) and thus there is a round of 16 to play before the quarterfinals. The U.S. would likely play on one of the coasts and their pathway to the final would allow them to gradually move to the other side of the country, stopping in the central region for the round of 16 and possibly a quarterfinal — assuming everything goes to plan, which is not a given.
That all leads to one other big question…
Where would a final be played?
FIFA knows the value of the New York City metro area and playing a prospective 2027 World Cup final there makes a lot of sense. It is arguably the most famous city in the world, with huge media opportunities and a melting pot of diversity. It is also a slightly friendlier time zone for Europe, especially. All those arguments are identical to those made around the 2026 decision, which reportedly came down to New York/New Jersey and Dallas — with LA serving as a wild card.
Two things set the 2027 tournament apart, should it be hosted by the U.S. and Mexico. Firstly, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones would likely be hungry to win round two of any possible battle for the golden ticket that is a World Cup final. Politics run rife in these decisions, a problem to which the Women’s World Cup is not immune. Another World Cup a year later? It’s safe to bet Jones would want that final, too.
Then, there is history. The 1999 World Cup ended at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., with Brandi Chastain ripping off her jersey to celebrate the game-winning penalty kick. There is history in the Women’s World Cup final being in Southern California, which is a hotbed for women’s soccer at the youth and now professional levels.
Would the Rose Bowl suffice as a modern venue in 2027? The history is there and, notably, the U.S.-Mexico joint bid lists the Rose Bowl rather than the more modern SoFi Stadium, which will be utilized in 2026. Again, that bid book doesn’t suggest venue decisions are final, but it could indicate how organizers are thinking. A final at the Rose Bowl would be a play on nostalgia — and what a media circus and narrative that would be if the U.S. found its way back. The glory of ’99, Part 2. FIFA would love that, too.
A delegation of FIFA officials began inspection visits for the bidding countries on Jan. 30. The U.S.-Mexico inspections will take place from Feb. 26–29.
Commercially, the joint bid makes a ton of sense for FIFA president Gianni Infantino in his quest to achieve equal pay under his tenure. The U.S.-Mexico joint bid leads off with this strength, claiming it can draw 4.5 million fans to stadiums and generate $3 billion in total revenue. Hosting experience and venues also have strong appeal.
Politics, however, will once again play a factor in host selection. So, yes, it’s very premature to be discussing a schedule when it is unclear where the World Cup will even be played, but you can bet that these are all factors in the decision that will be made by the FIFA Congress on May 17 in Bangkok, Thailand.
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