Irvine could play host to some of the world’s top soccer teams as they practice for the 2026 FIFA World Cup finals if Los Angeles wins a bid to host the final leg of the premier soccer tournament.
LA is vying to be one of several U.S. cities to host World Cup matches, hoping to be selected for the championship game and some playoff rounds to be played at SoFi Stadium, Irvine City Manager Oliver Chi said.
An agreement approved by Irvine’s City Council this week would give FIFA use of fields in the Great Park Sports Complex for teams to train before games.
Chi called the competition a “once in a generation event,” and told the City Council Tuesday it was “incredibly exciting that our facility was identified at a level where FIFA thinks they could locate up to two teams here in preparation for the championship matches.”
The international soccer organization is expected to make its selection of host cities next month, choosing between 23 that have tossed their names in the hat. It’s the first time the premier competition, featuring 48 teams, will be played throughout three different countries. The 80-match tournament will hit cities spread between the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
Chi told city leaders Tuesday there is “a lot of optimism that, given the nature of what SoFi stadium is, that SoFi will eventually, hopefully, be selected as the host location for the championship matches.”
If LA is chosen, FIFA would then decide whether and how many teams would use the Great Park’s facilities for training.
Officials are expecting teams would practice on the fields for two to three months, during which time they would have exclusive use of them. The agreement Irvine leaders approved Tuesday also stipulates requirements for floodlights, privacy fencing, seating for spectators and media, and locker rooms on the sites used for training, among other specific arrangements.
In exchange, Irvine would charge a negotiated per-day rental fee, which, based on estimates, could be between $30,000 and $90,000, city staff said.
The number of teams the city would need to accommodate and “anything that we need to sort of construct or create,” would all be factored into the daily rate, Chi told city leaders. Because the rest of the contract’s terms are fixed, that fee is “really our protection and leverage point to make sure this is a positive financial decision,” he said.
And the event could bring other economic benefits to the city, too, such as from teams staying in hotels or eating locally, a staff report said. The agreement requires players located at the Great Park to stay in hotels that are no further than a 20-minute drive from the training fields.