Miami Dolphins’ Hard Rock Stadium in running for World Cup 2026

Lionel Messi (right) celebrates his goal for Barcelona against Real Madrid at Hard Rock Stadium in July. Could the stadium next take a step up to the World Cup level for 2026? (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Now that Hard Rock Stadium has hosted the glamor matchup of Barcelona vs. Real Madrid, it’s setting sights even higher.

Hard Rock is among the venues listed in the United Bid Committee’s package to FIFA on Tuesday in the chase to land World Cup 2026.

It would have been a surprise had Hard Rock not be among the 34 U.S. cities, plus seven in Canada and three in Mexico, hoping to land a piece of the quadrennial tournament.

When Joe Robbie built the stadium that originally bore his name, he hoped to host matches for the 1994 World Cup, but they instead went to Orlando because the stadium was being used by the Marlins. Now that the Marlins have their own ballpark, Hard Rock’s summer calendar can accommodate the World Cup.

It wasn’t immediately known which level of World Cup matches Stephen Ross’ group will seek. It could potentially be a package of first-round matches and/or anything including the single most-watched sporting event in the world every four years: the World Cup final.

Hard Rock’s capacity of 65,326 is dwarfed by several other interested stadiums, including Dallas’ AT&T Stadium (105,000) and two in the Los Angeles area: the under-construction City of Champions Stadium (100,000) and the 90,888-seat Rose Bowl, which held the final of the 1999 Women’s World Cup.

Hard Rock faces competition from other Florida facilities: Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium (75,000), Orlando’s Camping World Stadium (65,000) and Jacksonville’s EverBank Field (82,000).

Canada’s preliminary list includes Montreal’s Stade Olympique (61,004) and, surprisingly, Ottawa’s TD Place Stadium, which seats only 24,000. Mexico’s bid, as expected, is led by Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca, whose capacity has been reduced to 87,000.

Cities have until Sept. 5 to confirm their interest, then must submit formal bids early next year. From there, a shortlist will be announced in September 2018.

Morocco is competing against North America for the right to host the tournament.

If successful, the United States would land 60 matches. Mexico and Canada would get 10 each.

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