DENVER — Colorado got a taste of what international soccer looks like on Sunday night. Now Denver wants more.
Denver is on the list of cities vying to host a 2026 World Cup game. The city is one of 17 candidates across the country in line to host a match when the tournament is held in North America. Only 10 will be chosen.
Sunday night's CONCACAF Nations League Final between the US and Mexico was like a dress rehearsal for what the World Cup would be like.
"I think we’re a global city. If we’re a global city we need to be hosting World Cup," said Matthew Payne, the Executive Director Denver Sports Commission. "I think FIFA (an international body that governs soccer) is going to be looking at those things that we saw last night: passionate fans and a really nice world-class facility."
Fans chanting slurs and throwing bottles at players didn’t exactly help the cause.
"In addition to ejecting several individuals for violating the fan code of conduct, our security staff worked closely with the Denver Police Department to identify five people who were arrested—four for trespassing and one for throwing projectiles," a statement released Monday from Empower Field's management company read. “The person arrested for throwing an object on the field was identified through security footage as being responsible for injuring a U.S. player. Along with facing criminal charges, this patron will be banned from all future events at Empower Field at Mile High."
Payne says FIFA will likely make its decision based on passionate fan bases and existing infrastructure. A delegation from FIFA will likely visit the city in the fall before deciding on the finalists by the end of the year.
"I don’t think that will hamper our bid at all. I think that match last night kind of had it all. Everything seemed to happen," said Payne. "I think the game showcased Denver for what we can do for big events. Packing stadiums and allowing people to walk to your stadium, walk to your restaurants, walk to the hotel."
Denver’s had some experience hosting big events that could help roll the ball in our direction. The DNC in 2008 brought thousands of people from around the country to Denver. Mile High Stadium hosted the big speeches. Five years from now, the city hopes a World Cup game will bounce on into the stadium.
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