Leaders express optimism about DC, Baltimore being selected as 2026 FIFA World Cup hosts

Thursday will be a big day for American soccer fans, as FIFA is set to announce the host sites for the 2026 World Cup, and leaders from across the DMV are hoping the D.C.-Baltimore region will be represented in the tournament.

RELATED: FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 broadcast schedule unveiled by FOX Sports

The 2026 iteration of international soccer's biggest tournament, which will be the first to feature an expanded field of 48 teams, will be hosted in North America as part of a joint bid from the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. Thursday's announcement from FIFA will reveal which 22 North American cities will host games for the World Cup. The announcement will be made at 5 p.m.

D.C. and Baltimore had originally submitted separate bids to host World Cup games, but then later decided to unify their bids. The pitch positions the National Mall in D.C. as a fan center for the tournament, with the actual games being played at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.

Ahead of the host cities being announced, FOX 5's David Kaplan spoke with fans and DMV officials to get their thoughts.

Download the FOX 5 DC News App for Local Breaking News and Weather

Leaders in both D.C. and Maryland told FOX 5 they are optimistic our region will be selected.

"I think it would be a big mistake for them not to. And it would be out of character. They have not, to my knowledge, not had a world cup in the capital city," said Maryland Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford. "I do not have any inside information. I am just extremely hopeful, extremely optimistic. In my opinion, I think we have, and I’ve said it before, I think a 95% chance. I would be highly disappointed and outraged if we don’t get it."

Rutherford told FOX 5 that FIFA liked Baltimore as a venue after seeing the energy during this past season's Ravens-Chiefs Sunday Night Football game.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser also expressed optimism about being selected, and said the two cities are prepared.

"Having the FIFA world cup here would be exciting. It’s a short distance to Baltimore. A lot of the fan events. We know that Baltimore fans love to come to DC. We’ve done this in the past and we’re looking forward to doing it again," said Mayor Bowser.

READ MORE: World Cup draw: US to play England, Iran and possibly Ukraine

Events D.C. is hosting a watch party for the announcement at 5 p.m. Thursday.

D.C. last hosted World Cup games in 1994 at RFK Stadium.

As for the 2022 World Cup, remember you can catch all the coverage of the tournament on FOX 5 starting November 21.