Nashville will learn Thursday if it's going to be a 2026 FIFA World Cup host city

FIFA executives visit Nashville
Posted at 5:40 PM, Jun 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-15 19:30:42-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The countdown is on.

Nashville soccer fans will either be cheering that they've become a host city for the 2026 FIFA World Cup, or jeering the fact they weren't chosen on Thursday evening.

Nashville is one of 16 American finalist cities to host a few of the 60 games that the world's biggest sporting event would bring to North America.

If soccer lovers asked Butch Spyridon his emotions right now, the short answer would be — all of them.

"Angst, anticipation, hope, fear, anguish, excitement," said Spyridon, who is CEO of the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corporation.

For the last two years, Music City has been going through the grueling process to become a host city, but it's been a goal of this city for far longer.

"We’ve got to have the World Cup in Nashville Tennessee," said then-Nashville Mayor Karl Dean in 2010, to a crowd of soccer fans at a World Cup watch party at Nissan Stadium.

Also in 2010, NewsChannel 5 interviewed Spyridon about who the city's competition was.

"Miami, New York, DC, Chicago, Dallas," Spyridon told us twelve years ago.

This time around, Spyridon has his competition memorized too. "Miami, Orlando, New York, Boston…" he said.

While Nashville is one of the smallest cities still in contention, FIFA officials seemed to be floored when they visited the town last September — which boosted Butch's confidence.

"We have the best campus. We have the best footprint. We’re geographically centrally located, and we can put on a party around the game like none of them can even attempt," said Spyridon.

But Nashville may have kicked themselves out of bounds earlier this year, when the city started exploring stadium replacement options for the Tennessee Titans.

"It obviously gave them some pause, but we agreed to focus on the current stadium. We agreed to keep it in its current condition or better, and I think it’s a missed opportunity if they don’t take this city," he said.

FIFA is reportedly concerned about ongoing construction surrounding such a big world event. Spyridon says he assured soccer officials that construction should be complete by the time the games roll around, and if it isn't, they can put up the proper fencing.

If Nashville isn't selected, it's not likely North America will get another chance to host for several more decades. "It will hurt, I can’t deny that," he said.

But if Nashville does get the bid, it means lots of work ahead. "We start cranking up immediately. We have money to raise, we have venues to secure. It’s a good thing we have four years because we’ll need every bit of it. But it’ll be the most fun four years we’ve ever had," said Spyridon.

FIFA has requested that big adjustments are made to Nissan Stadium to host World Cup games. They include a shaded area for media seating, removing seating from the end zones to widen the space for corner kicks and improving hospitality amenities.

One of Nashville's competitors — Kansas City — is planning a big watch party for the finalists to be announced Thursday afternoon. Spyridon said Nashville didn't plan one in case it doesn't go their way.

Instead, Spyridon intends to watch the broadcast announcement with Tennessee Titans CEO Burke Nihill.

The American finalist venues include:

  1. Arlington, Texas, AT&T Stadium
  2. Atlanta, Mercedes-Benz Stadium 
  3. Baltimore, M&T Bank Stadium
  4. Cincinnati, Paul Brown Stadium
  5. Denver, Empower Field at Mile High
  6. East Rutherford, New Jersey, MetLife Stadium 
  7. Foxborough, Massachusetts, Gillette Stadium
  8. Houston, NRG Stadium
  9. Inglewood, California, SoFi Stadium
  10. Kansas City, Missouri, Arrowhead Stadium 
  11. Miami Gardens, Florida, Hard Rock Stadium 
  12. Nashville, Tennessee, Nissan Stadium
  13. Orlando, Florida, Camping World Stadium
  14. Pasadena, California, Rose Bowl
  15. Philadelphia, Lincoln Financial Field
  16. Santa Clara, California, Levi's Stadium
  17. Seattle, Lumen Field