Seattle is one of 16 locations in North America to host the 2026 World Cup. It is one of five cities on the West Coast, including Vancouver, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Guadalajara, Mexico.
If you do not know the soccer world well, you might expect Seattle to fly under the radar as a soccer city. However, there are a few reasons why Seattle was chosen.
First, Seattle’s fan base. When you think of the Seattle sports atmosphere, you probably imagine the green and blue swarming Lumen Field on Sundays, cheering the Seattle Seahawks. Besides filling the stadium for Seahawks games, fans also pack the stadium for the Sounders.
From 2009-16, the Seattle Sounders led Major League Soccer in attendance, averaging over 40,000 fans per game each season. In addition, the Sounders finished second in attendance last season and currently ranks third this season with an average of 32,143 fans.
Plus, Lumen Field has a partial roof, covering around 70 percent of seats. Therefore, the soccer world can expect 72,000 rambunctious fans creating havoc in the Northwest for the World Cup. I expect Lumen Field to compete with 2010’s South Africa for one of the best locations for a World Cup based solely for fan experience.
After all, South Africa raised expectations for fan experience when their stadiums held all the horns and cheer noise within the event center, giving the viewers an echoing feel that could be heard around the world.
Besides hosting the sixth-largest stadium in the 2026 World Cup, another reason Seattle is a near-perfect spot is its soccer history.
The Sounders are considered one of the best MLS franchises of all time. The organization has won two MLS cups, one Supporters Shield, four Lamar Hunt US Open Cup titles and most recently the CONCACAF Champions League earlier this year.
Besides being the home of the Sounders, Seattle also has hosted some high-profile soccer matches. In recent years, Seattle hosted the 2016 Copa America Centenario, multiple CONCACAF Gold Cups, and friendlies for international teams.
Outside of soccer, Seattle is still a top-five World Cup destination. It is a very diverse state. Why does that come into play?
Well, if certain countries play in Seattle, we can expect an influx of fans traveling from across the state. For example, Washington ranks 11th in Hispanic population in 2020 compared with other states. In addition, Washington ranks fifth in Asian American population with nearly one million residents.
So, if certain countries travel up Northwest, we can see one of the most diverse crowds out of the 16 locations.
Besides drawing a diverse crowd, there is a lack of cities in the Northwest hosting the World Cup. Therefore, if fans from Oregon, Idaho, Montana and more states want to travel the least miles to watch a World Cup game, Seattle is their destination.
Although those states may not have the same reputation in the soccer world, they still draw interest. For example, the Portland Timbers have a faithful following in Oregon.
Next, Seattle, and Washington in general, has perfect weather in the summer. How can professional soccer players pass on high 70s, slight winds from the water, and sunny days? And even if it does rain, the stadium has a roof.
Plus, humidity is not a factor in the Northwest like it is in so many other locations.
The final reason that makes Seattle stand out as a top-tier location is Lumen Field’s proximity to downtown Seattle.
If you look at other main hubs for the World Cup, they are not actually located in the heart of the city. San Francisco is really at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, about an hour away. New York’s Metlife Stadium is outside the city in New Jersey. SoFi Stadium is located in Inglewood, CA, 30 minutes if traffic moves in LA.
However, Lumen Field is walking distance to Amtrak’s King Street Station. Also, the stadium is close to Pike Place Market and is a half-hour ferry ride away from Bainbridge Island.
So, if I had to rank the top five World Cup locations in order, Seattle falls behind New York, Mexico City and Dallas while sitting above Los Angeles and Atlanta.
Nicholas Zeller-Singh is the new sports reporter for Kitsap News Group papers.