After having the old Foxboro Stadium host matches in the 1994 World Cup, could New Englanders experience the world’s most prestigious soccer event in their backyard again in eight years? Revolution president Brian Bilello sure thinks so.
Gillette Stadium has been no stranger to international soccer. As recently as 2016, the Revs’ home pitch hosted three games of the Copa America Centenario. A major prerequisite needed for final approval as a venue in that tournament was the installation of real grass to replace Gillette’s artificial field turf. That’s to be expected for the World Cup, as well, as the vast majority of soccer players disdain fake grass, primarily as an injury concern.
Sixty of the 80 matches in the 2026 World Cup, or 75%, will be played in the United States, with ten each in Canada and Mexico. The increase from this year’s 64 matches corresponds to the expansion of the field from 32 to 48 teams between now and 2026.
Over the next two years, the trilateral United Bid Committee that oversaw the bidding process will work with FIFA to narrow the list of 23 potential venues across North America down to a total of three in Canada, three in Mexico, and ten in the United States. Boston — and Gillette as its associated soccer complex — would seem to have an inside track for selection as a host city for several reasons. The Hub possesses a robust infrastructure and broad hotel network, as well as an extensive transportation system which includes the high-capacity Logan International Airport.
Certainly not to be ignored in the committee’s decision calculus is the decades-long support of soccer both nationally and locally by Mr. Robert Kraft. The Revolution owner/investor was actually the Honorary Chairman of the Board for the United Bid Committee. In the unlikely scenario of a close vote between Boston and another city, his involvement may be enough to tip the scales. In fact, Kraft was instrumental in securing Foxboro Stadium as a venue for the 1994 tournament. He then became one of the first investors in MLS with the Revolution’s inception in 1995.
The committee and FIFA plan to have their 2026 World Cup venue list finalized by late 2020. At this point, though, it would seem the odds greatly favor Gillette Stadium denizens viewing more than just Revolution matches eight summers from now. Of course, supporters would much rather see the Revs in a soccer-specific stadium by then, but that’s a whole other topic, right?