SOCCER

The rejection by the Washington World Cup, FedEx Field and Daniel Snyder

ADVERTISEMENT

Placeholder while loading article actions

As the busload of World Cup officials last fall headed to FedEx Field from a downtown DC hotel, someone in the entourage, an American football official told me, commented on how unpleasantly surprised they were that the journey to a potential 2026 World Cup venue was taking so long.

This was only the first of their revelations.

ADVERTISEMENT

Finally arriving at the stadium in suburban Maryland where the local NFL team plays, officials saw repairs to a pipe that had burst during a game a few weeks earlier, flooding a fan base in the Washington football team squeezed into a dozen seats with a liquid that team executives swore was not sewage.

And while the World Cup honchos are long gone at the end of the season, visiting other potential venues throughout the county, they have certainly been tipped off about a season-ending event at FedEx which, I would say, was a metaphor for the stadium and the franchise that calls it home. Several Philadelphia fans trying to congratulate their winning quarterback Jalen Hurts as he walked off the field saw the railing they were leaning on collapse and send them falling about six feet off the ground. Stadium officials said the railing was not intended to be load-bearing.

So when Colin Smith, a World Cup official, said on Thursday – after it was announced that Washington hadn’t made the cut to officially be part of the 2026 tournament – ​​that it was hard to “ … imagine a World Cup in the United States and the capital not playing a major role…” he was just being polite. We didn’t deserve the 2026 World Cup, but that’s not our fault.

Blame Daniel Snyder. Because World Cup officials almost decided that Snyder’s stadium was a bit far from a dumping ground.

2026 World Cup host cities revealed, but DC and Baltimore absent

Some of us have grown accustomed to our NFL franchise, which embarrasses us in the area, with the Ravens on the Baltimore boardwalk playing winning football in a stadium built just a year after FedEx at about half the cost, and with a reputation for being both accessible and enjoyable.

Some of us are growing more accustomed to our team making us a national embarrassment, with Snyder refusing Wednesday to appear before a congressional committee investigating allegations that his team’s workplace is, among other things, hostile to women.

But Thursday elevated us to a new level of ignominy: global. Thanks to Snyder.

Granted, the district’s vision to host games had been scrapped weeks ago when cities merged bids in a futile effort to overcome Washington Stadium’s flaws. Now, the 2026 Men’s World Cup will kick off for one of the few times in its nearly 100-year history without the host nation’s capital as the venue for a single game. Bonn, West Germany was left out in 1974. Tokyo did not join Seoul when Japan and South Korea co-hosted in 2002. And while Canada and Mexico co-host 2026 with the United States as the hub, Mexico will host matches while Ottawa was never considered.

Even in 1994, when the United States first hosted a World Cup, the soon to be demolished RFK Stadium hosted games despite being past its peak.

“It’s been an incredibly competitive process,” Smith said. “All the cities have been amazing. It was a very, very difficult choice.

Indeed, long before Smith’s colleagues made the FedEx tour, FedEx’s playing surface was criticized as the worst in the NFL after a string of high-profile injuries. The franchise almost admitted it when it embarked on a major on-field reconstruction project just before last season. Apparently, it was a little too late for World Cup officials who relied on athletes worth hundreds of millions of dollars for their professional teams.

But this rejection wasn’t just a matter of timing. It was stadium mismanagement, rivaled only by the mismanagement of a once strong NFL franchise.

It may have been Snyder’s final blow in killing this golden goose of an NFL franchise. The team I grew up with in RFK Section 312 is so long gone. The victory faded. The coveted subscription is no more. Less than 10 years after FedEx opened in 1997, it has become the NFL’s largest stadium with accommodations for 91,000 fans. He was either first or second in attendance in the NFL for a few years. In 2021, it attracted the second fewest ticket buyers in the league.

Barry Svrluga: Options for a Commanders Stadium Site: Bad, Worse and Non-Existing

It’s not just because it’s a long drive for so many fans, as World Cup officials have said. It is also a long journey for fewer and fewer reasons. The team I grew up with won as many playoff games in the 80s and 90s as all but one team, the San Francisco 49ers. It was to be seen in person as well as on television.

The team since then, that of the 2000s, has won fewer playoff games than any team in the league except the Detroit Lions. No wonder attendance dropped off so abruptly.

Now, what used to be the crown jewel of professional sports franchises in the region might as well be a trinket. No one covets it.

Earlier this month, amid the myriad controversies surrounding the team, Virginia Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) tabled legislation that would have helped fund a new stadium for Snyder’s football team.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan reiterated that his state would shell out $400 million to build the area around FedEx if Snyder wanted to sign a new lease after the current one expires in 2027, but would not fund a new stadium. .

And while the old RFK is slated for demolition, DC Mayor Muriel E. Bowser and the city council are divided over the use of the land it sits on. For the moment, the city does not even own it; the federal government does.

But no need to rush to build new or renovate old. The world’s biggest sporting event has announced it won’t be coming, yet another ignominious feat for Daniel Snyder.

ADVERTISEMENT