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 By Sam Borden

If the U.S-led 2026 World Cup bid succeeds, which city hosts the final?

ESPN's Sam Borden chats with U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati about the U.S.-led 2026 World Cup bid.
Herculez Gomez lays out how the U.S. should plan for the 2026 World Cup from a player development perspective.
ESPN's Sam Borden sits down with Carli Lloyd to discuss life at Man City, the 2026 World Cup bid and more.

MANAMA, Bahrain -- At this point, the United States-led bid to bring the 2026 World Cup to North America is a clear favorite to land the tournament's hosting rights. But 2026 is a long time from now, leaving little to do but wait and speculate.

So, with that in mind, consider this tantalizing question: If the World Cup does return to this continent for the first time since 1994, where will the final be held?

We know two things for sure: It won't be in Mexico City or Vancouver or anywhere in Mexico or Canada at all because the bid proposal calls for all games from the quarterfinals onward to be in the United States. And we also know that to host a World Cup final, a city has to have a stadium that's big: anything under about 70,000 capacity need not apply.

Given that, here is a very, very preliminary breakdown of the choices.

The favorites

-- New York/New Jersey: Many consider New York to be the capital of the world, and it has hosted so many major sporting events that a World Cup final feels like a natural fit. MetLife Stadium, just across the river, has a capacity of 82,500 and hosted the Copa America final last summer. Also, for those who want to consider historical fairness, the 1994 final was played on the West Coast, so it could be argued that this time around the game should be in the East.

-- Los Angeles: Iconic city. Amazing weather. Historic venue (or maybe even a state-of-the-art one). It is not difficult to see why L.A. is so attractive to bid organizers. The Rose Bowl hosted the 1994 title match, but there is already talk that a new stadium built for the Los Angeles Rams might be the best fit for the 2026 showpiece.

The dark horses

-- Dallas: If you're looking to back a city with longer odds in your parlor game, this is the best value. The Cowboys' stadium is new, sparkling and monstrously big (100,000 capacity), not to mention it is close to the Mexican border, which would provide a nice dynamic to close a joint-bid World Cup.

-- Houston: Similar to Dallas in its proximity to Mexico, NRG Stadium has been a favorite of U.S. Soccer for big matches. The stadium is modern and the city is welcoming. It's probably a better bet for an earlier knockout round match but worth considering.

The tantalizing hypothetical

-- Washington, D.C.: If Washington's NFL team builds a new stadium, which has been speculated, and it meets the minimum capacity requirements, then the nation's capital would immediately become a prime candidate for the final. Bid officials have already noted that 2026 is the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence: what better way to celebrate than host the world's biggest game right around the July 4 holiday?

Sam Borden is a Global Sports Correspondent for ESPN, also covering soccer for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamBorden.

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