The city of Irvine is currently one of 23 cities under consideration to become a host city for international soccer teams competing in the FIFA World Cup in 2026. On Tuesday, April 26, the Great Park Board of Directors voted unanimously to allow FIFA to utilize portions of the Great Park Sports Complex as a potential dual-team training site during the 2026 World Cup.   

FIFA is set to bring new changes to the World Cup 2026, specifically in regard to hosting the games in a centralized location. 

For the first time, FIFA will host the tournament in three different countries. For 2026, FIFA has already selected Canada, Mexico and the United States as the three main country stages. With 48 teams, competing in an 80-game schedule over a 45-day timeline, the 2026 World Cup will be the largest in the tournament’s history. 

FIFA is set to make final selections for stadiums in May, with the city of Los Angeles offering the newly completed SoFi Stadium, along with the Rose Bowl, which hosted the FIFA World Cup in 1994. 

Steven Stewart, Superintendent of Community Services for the Great Park, presented the item for consideration to the Great Park’s Board of Directors. During his presentation, Stewart called the event, “a once in a generation event,” and explained the item was brought to the attention of staff by the Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment Commission, who wanted to include the Great Park Sports Complex and Championship Soccer Stadium in the event that Los Angeles was selected as a host city. 

Stewart also pointed out that Irvine could also benefit economically, in terms of hospitality. 

“This opportunity not only builds on the city of Irvine’s reputation for hosting international events, but also provides a positive economic impact through hospitality services through hotel accommodations and food and beverage services,” he said. “Venues selected to become a training site authority are expected to play an important role in the participant’s performance during the tournament, as they provide world-class facilities and hotel accommodations.” 

Stewart added that the L.A. S&E commission toured the Great Park in November 2021.  

“FIFA is currently finalizing their selection for host cities where matches and training will take place. Staff is anticipating FIFA will make final decisions on host cities in May of 2022,” he said. “The Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment Commission, which represents the city of Los Angeles and the surrounding regions, is a candidate for a host city and is requesting to include the Great Park Sport Complex as a training site authority.”

Irvine City Manager Oliver Chi explained that with this potential agreement a fee associated with the use of the facility is included. 

“We’re hopeful that SoFi stadium would be selected to be the host selection for the championship match as the rounds are being played, and if that is the case, what will happen is FIFA will come back to us and let us know … whether or not our site is selected as a training host site – and if it is, how many teams are going to be located here,” he said. “Based on that, there will be a determination on what facilities FIFA will need to host the teams. We’ve been told we could potentially host up to two teams, as a host city for about a month-long period.” 

Chi said the city would be able to establish a non-negotiable daily fee amount with FIFA that would help mitigate any impacts to the city. 

“The amount of usage, the number of teams that are located here, the impact on city resources, anything that we need to construct or create – that’s embedded into the daily fee that we would negotiate,” he said. “This is a positive financial decision. Given the event is still a few years away it gives us time to plan and coordinate.”

While all council members supported the motion, Irvine City Council Member Mike Carroll said this was a really exciting opportunity for the city, adding that he trusts the confidence of his new city manager. 

“If you feel confident, Mr. City Manager, you have my support,” Carroll said.