Controversy Surrounding the 2026 World Cup

Isabella Lehr , Sports Editor

The biggest event in soccer is coming our way. Soccer fans around the area celebrate the recent news that Philadelphia has been selected as a host city for the 2026 FIFA World Cup. Over the summer, Philadelphia, along with 15 other North American cities including Los Angeles, Toronto, New York, was announced as a location for the World Cup. Games are set to be hosted in the Eagles’ stadium, Lincoln Financial Field, in South Philadelphia. In a June interview, Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney voiced his excitement over the bid: “This is an incredible win for Philadelphia and sets the stage for an unprecedented year for our city in 2026.” The last time the World Cup was held in North America occurred in 1994. Philadelphia lost the bid to host that year, but this time, the outcome was a bit different. Upon the big news, local soccer fans celebrated in downtown Philadelphia’s LOVE Park with cheers of excitement. 

However, not everyone in the area is as pumped as these fans are. Along with the big game at Lincoln Financial Field, World Cup teams also need advanced fields to practice, something Philadelphia currently lacks. Recently, Philadelphia officials have suggested building practice sites in the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park. The park houses trails and wildlife areas, known to locals as “the Meadows.” Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell first suggested FDR Park because it is one of the largest pieces of public land in Philadelphia. The hypothetical practice site would feature fields, restrooms, storage areas, concession stands, and more, costing over $200 million according to Parks and Recreation spokesperson Maita Soukup. 

While local soccer fans feel the FDR Park needs a revamp, others do not. Environmentalists oppose the construction of the fields due to the possible destruction of the park’s wildlife habitats. In a WHYY PBS interview in June, David Masur, a member of the group PennEnvironment, argues “It turns it from wild and green space into a cash cow for the city and this World Cup Bid.”. Masur, along with others, claims the project will not only destroy the wildlife of the park, but also will cause further demolitions of natural spaces around Philadelphia. 

The fight for FDR Park heats up as we approach the 2026 FIFA World Cup. FIFA officials are currently planning to visit possible training sites in Philadelphia later in the year. While FDR Park appears to be the most popular spot, other fields such as the NovaCare Athletic Facility, Subaru Park, and nearby college fields are available as well. Although the 2026 World Cup is still a few years away, it appears as though neither side is preparing to let down.