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Football Fever: A Look at the Most Soccer-Crazed Cities in America

By Cheryl Young | July 11, 2018

As we approach the culmination of international soccer’s biggest tournament, the global soccer frenzy is reaching a fever pitch. Disappointed teams are leaving Russia and heading home, their thoughts turning to Qatar where the next tournament will be held in 2022. American soccer fans have reason to be excited by something further down the road—soccer’s biggest stage is coming to the United States, Canada and Mexico in 2026, and we will be able to witness nations play “the beautiful game” on our home turf. Seventeen American cities took part in the winning bid to host the international soccer tournament. These contenders will be whittled down to 10 finalists.

To help identify the top spots to watch these mega matches in 2026, we ranked potential U.S. host cities according to how soccer-crazed they are. Our criteria included whether they had top-division Major League Soccer (MLS) or National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) teams, the intensity of existing professional and recreational soccer clubs, the prevalence of sporting goods stores and, for good measure, how much home values have appreciated since the 2010 international soccer tournament. Soccer may not be the top sport in the U.S., but we found a number of places where soccer mania runs deep.


  • 1. Seattle

    Seattle is a place where major league soccer routinely sells out and its painted, chanting fans could give football-loving Brits or Brazilians a run for their money. The Emerald City boasts both the MLS Cup-winning Seattle Sounders as well as the two-time NWSL Shield earners, the Seattle Reign FC. Seattle tops the list in terms of soccer club prevalence and is second in sporting goods stores. To top it off, Seattle has been one of the hottest markets in home value increases in recent years.

  • 2. Denver

    The Mile High City is certainly a place for soccer fans to cheer on the MLS Colorado Rapids. It ranks number one in concentration of sporting goods stores and third in soccer clubs. And Denver is also one of the hottest places to live when it comes to home values.

  • 3. Orlando

    Home to both the MLS Orlando City FC since 2015 and the crowd-pleasing NWSL Orlando Pride, Orlando is one of America’s top soccer-loving places. Orlando also ranks among the top five in concentration of soccer clubs and sporting goods stores, and seventh in home value growth.

  • 4. San Jose

    The San Jose Earthquakes, an MLS charter team, play in one of the top soccer cities in America. San Jose ranks second in concentration of professional and recreational soccer clubs, and tops the list in fastest-growing home values. 

  • 5. Los Angeles

    Soccer lovers in Los Angeles have a choice of teams to root for. They can go with the five-time MLS champs, the LA Galaxy, or the Los Angeles FC, this year’s addition to the MLS. Looking ahead to 2026, the Los Angeles area also boasts the Rose Bowl, one of the largest-capacity stadiums in the nation.

  • 6. Atlanta

    Atlanta is a soccer city on the rise. Home to one of the newest teams in the MLS, the Atlanta United, Atlanta also ranks sixth in professional and recreational soccer clubs prevalence.

  • 7. New York (tie)

    New York is home to two MLS teams—the New York Red Bulls and New York City FC. The Big Apple is also among the top 10 in concentration of professional and recreational soccer clubs.

  • Washington, D.C. (tie)

    MLS D.C. United and the NWSL’s Washington Spirit call the nation’s capital home. The concentration of professional and recreational soccer clubs in Washington puts it in seventh place among bid cities.

  • 9. Dallas (tie)

    Dallas is home to F.C. Dallas as well as the bid stadium with the largest capacity for the 2026 tournament.

  • Boston (tie)

    Bostonians know soccer—it ranks fourth among 2026 contenders in professional and recreational soccer club prevalence. Bean Town is also home to the MLS team the New England Revolution.

  • 11. Kansas City

    Kansas City is quickly rising as a serious soccer town. Current MLS reigning champion Sporting Kansas City calls it home. And this sports-loving city ranks seventh in availability of sporting goods stores.

  • 12. Houston

    Houston boasts teams in both the MLS and the NWSL—the Houston Dynamo and the Houston Dash. But Houstonians play little organized soccer themselves. The biggest city in Texas ranks 14th in concentration of soccer clubs.

  • 13. Nashville

    Nashville is poised to cultivate a passion for soccer when Nashville MLS debuts in 2020. What’s more, Nashville ranks sixth in hot housing markets and fifth in concentration of sporting goods stores.

  • 14. Miami

    Miami has a large sports community, ranking fourth in concentration of sporting goods stores. Miami currently lacks a professional soccer team, but that will change when an MLS expansion team—co-owned by retired soccer superstar David Beckham—debuts in 2020. Miami also has one of the hottest housing markets among bid cities.

  • 15. Baltimore

    Baltimore currently has no professional team, but Charm City ranks eighth and ninth respectively in concentration of soccer clubs and sporting goods stores.

  • 16. Cincinnati

    While Cincinnati is one of the lowest-ranking teams on this list, soccer will grow in popularity when the FC Cincinnati MLS expansion team debuts in 2019.

  • 17. Philadelphia

    With its pretzels, hoagies and cheese steaks, Philadelphia may be America’s top city for street food. But, when it comes to soccer, the City of Brotherly Love is an also-ran. Even with the MLS team the Philadelphia Union, Philadelphia finishes at the bottom of our list for soccer-related businesses and second-to-last for home value increases.


We used four metrics to calculate the hottest markets for soccer fans among the 17 American bid cities in the United States. The metrics are calculated for the metropolitan division in which the bid stadiums are located.

Two of these metrics are related to soccer and sports-related businesses, including the prevalence of professional and recreational soccer clubs, and sporting goods stores on a per-10,000-household basis. Data for these two metrics were derived from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016 County Business Patterns using the county record layout and aggregating at the metropolitan division level. The number of households is from the 2016 1-Year American Community Survey.

The third metric looks at whether a market contains Major League Soccer or National Women’s Soccer League professional teams. Proposed expansion teams such as Nashville MLS, Miami MLS and FC Cincinnati were included in these totals. These were ranked first by the number of teams each market had. Bid stadium capacity (not penalty kicks) was used as a tie breaker.

Finally, we included a measure of overall demand in the bid markets based on eight-year home value increases, the same amount of time between today and when the U.S will take part in hosting the international soccer tournament in 2026. The metrics measuring professional soccer presence and the prevalence of soccer clubs were weighted twice as heavily as the other two metrics.