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Kraft Group Pushing Boston To Host 2026 FIFA World Cup

Gillette Stadium during a New England Revolution MLS game

Boston is looking to shine on the global athletic stage. Again. 

The Kraft Group, owner of the New England Patriots and Major League Soccer's New England Revolution, has formed the nonprofit Boston 2026 to vie for a chance at hosting the FIFA World Cup. Unlike Boston’s ill-fated bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics, the potential 2026 World Cup would rely on existing infrastructure. 

The United States Soccer Association and partners in Mexico and Canada submitted a bid this month to FIFA with 23 possible North American host cities, including Boston. Kraft Group CEO Robert Kraft is honorary chairman of the North American bid committee, the Boston Globe reports

The field of potential host cities has been narrowed down from the initial almost 50, as cities like Minneapolis and Chicago withdrew from the race with concerns regarding FIFA requirements to host the games. FIFA is expected to decide between the North American united bid and a pitch from Morocco in June. Should North America win, a shortlist of as many as 16 host cities would be announced in 2020. 

Any New England games would be played at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, but Boston would be the host city given how many international fans would travel through and stay in the region’s largest city. A portion of the 1994 World Cup was played at the old Foxboro Stadium.

Boston 2026 would repay Boston for any costs incurred through the World Cup. It is also expected to sign FIFA’s host city agreement to avoid Boston getting saddled with any World Cup financial and legal obligations.

Boston’s brief tenure as the winning bid advanced by the U.S. Olympic Committee in early 2015 to host the 2024 Summer Olympics came to an abrupt halt months later, as reports emerged the city was going to get stuck with a hefty bill to fund new stadiums and infrastructure improvements. Boston 2026 hopes to avoid similar snafus. 

“The FIFA requirements are that there’s a host city entity or authority that would be responsible for the overall management of any games that are played here,” Gillette Stadium Executive Director of Special Events Phil Buttafuoco said to the Globe. “That would include the training sites, coordination of fan festivals and branding of FIFA throughout the region. So for us, the best method to achieve all of that was to form Boston Soccer 2026.”

The organization is attempting to raise enough money to host as many as six games at Gillette, but large-scale fundraising will not officially kick off until Boston has secured its spot as a host city. 

While the Kraft Group goes for the World Cup, its quest for a new soccer-specific stadium for the Revolution remains a separate, difficult battle. 

Talks stalled last year after plans for a Major League Soccer stadium at the Bayside Expo Center property in Dorchester fell apart. The organization has pursued a soccer stadium closer to the city for years, but land is at a premium and quickly snapped up by developers pursuing other projects. 

While a new Revolution stadium, expected to be a third of the size of Gillette, is not required for World Cup hosting duties, it could be used for programming during the games, according to Buttafuoco.