If the financials alone weren’t enough to garner support for building a new enclosed stadium for the Tennessee Titans, perhaps Thursday’s rejection from FIFA to be a host city for the 2026 World Cup did the trick.
Although FIFA isn’t on record with a specific reason for passing Nashville over for other cities like Boston, Kansas City and Philadelphia, Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp CEO Butch Spyridon says he believes soccer’s governing body wasn’t high on playing World Cup games at the non-state-of-the-art Nissan Stadium.
Six of the 11 U.S. cities chosen either have an enclosed stadium or one with a retractable roof.
“While I don’t blame the stadium [for not getting a World Cup bid], yes, had we had a newer facility or a covered stadium, yeah, I think it would have been a difference maker,” Spyridon says. “I think investing in ourselves and creating that kind of facility hopefully removes that underdog label for good.”
Although the Titans are working on a possible new multibillion-dollar stadium along the East Bank, Nashville’s World Cup bid was centered around Nissan Stadium. Titans president and CEO Burke Nihill admitted to The Tennessean that FIFA had possible concerns about the playing surface at the venue, perhaps pushing the other 11 U.S. cities ahead of Nashville.
While Nihill said the Titans had an aggressive plan in place to have a potential new stadium finished by 2026, that level of uncertainty — along with a small margin of error of no more than a few months — likely didn’t sit right with FIFA.
“Nobody does events better than we do,” Spyridon says. "I think it’s a missed opportunity for [FIFA]. I hope we have the opportunity — not in a mean way — to show them, and I want them to go, ‘Damn, we should have picked Nashville.’ ”
Spyridon says Nashville shouldn’t have to prove itself worthy of hosting any event, citing the city’s résumé — one that includes the 2022 NHL Stadium Series, the 2019 NFL Draft, the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, the 2016 NHL All-Star Game and the 2003 NHL Draft.
Admitting that he personally would be hard-pressed to bid on the World Cup again after two failed attempts, Spyridon still has some competitive fire left to pursue other large-scale events once a timeline for the Titans' potential new stadium is firmed up.
“Once we know how big [the new stadium will be] and when it will be done, then we will really put our list together and start the outreach,” he says. “[Being rejected by FIFA] will make us a better bidding city moving forward.
“We’re already working with U.S. Rugby on their World Cup, and the U.S. has been accepted to bid," he continues. "We’re in the hunt there ... for 2030. We’ve reached out to the NFL and said we want to bid on a Super Bowl, and we’ll do that. We have started outreach about the College Football Playoffs and other things we can do with the SEC.”
This story was originally published by the Scene's sister publication, the Nashville Post. Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports.