Local LGBTQ organizations in the U.S., Canada and Mexico are signing up to create inclusive spaces as part of the ‘Pride House United 2026’ project at the world’s most popular sports event, with commitments already made for nine of the 16 cities.
FIFA has forecast over 5.5 million fans will attend the tournament, which will expand to 48 national teams for the first time.
You have to go back to Brazil 2014 for the last time there was a Pride House presence at a men’s soccer World Cup. For Russia 2018, FIFA supported a ‘Diversity House’ venue in Moscow and there was no such initiative at Qatar 2022.
Pride Houses are pop-up, physical spaces located at major sporting events that are hubs for LGBTQ people and allies to congregate and raise awareness about human rights. Including Pride House France at next year’s Olympics and Paralympics in Paris, there have been over 25 such projects dating back to the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, which is one of the nine cities already on the list for World Cup 2026.
Pride House International (PHI) is the non-profit organization that co-ordinates the venues and works closely with the local groups delivering them.
“In the relatively short history of Pride House, we’ve witnessed the concrete, positive, and lasting impact of these spaces on individuals, communities, and sport at large,” said Trustee Keph Senett, who is leading on the project.
“The United 2026 men’s World Cup offers an unprecedented opportunity for communities across the entire continent of North America to show up for LGBTIQ+ human rights and visibility while participating in the most popular sport in the world.”
As of Wednesday’s announcement, the nine cities whose organizations have signed memoranda of understanding with PHI are:
- Atlanta (LGBTQ supporters’ group All Stripes)
- Houston (The Montrose Center, and LGBTQ club Space City Pride FC)
- Los Angeles (The Out Athlete Fund)
- Mexico City (Mexican NGO DIDESEX A.C.)
- Miami (The Pride Center at Equality Park, and Pridelines)
- Monterrey (as above)
- New York City / New Jersey (LGBTQ club the New York Ramblers)
- Philadelphia (LGBTQ club the Philly Falcons)
- Vancouver (QMUNITY)
The remaining cities previously announced by FIFA as 2026 hosts are Boston, Dallas, Guadalajara, Kansas City, Seattle, San Francisco and Toronto.
PHI are confident of securing agreements with LGBTQ groups to deliver venues in those locations as well.
Among those lending their support to the 2026 project is Thomas Hitzlsperger, who was part of the Germany squad that won bronze medals on home soil at World Cup 2006 and who came out publicly as gay in 2014. He is now a diversity ambassador for the German FA.
“Soccer is a community and nobody should be excluded,” said Hitzlsperger. “Spaces like Pride Houses are positive examples of how we can include everyone.
“When I came out, it was important to add something to the conversation to move us forward and now the main challenge is to continue speaking up, and to make sure everyone feels welcome in the game.”
The ambitious scale of the project — with 16 different spaces across three continents — represents a significant undertaking but a necessary one, says PHI co-chair Lou Englefield.
Speaking to Outsports, she referenced the need to reflect the community’s passion for football following the tournaments in Russia and Qatar, whose anti-gay laws made them distinctly unappealing destinations for many fans.
“It’s about the lack of LGBTQ+ inclusion around the last two men’s World Cups,” said Englefield.
Controversy surrounded Qatar 2022 in particular, with multiple activists highlighting the mistreatment of LGBTQ people living in the country.
David Beckham, an ambassador for Qatar 2022, came in for further criticism last week when he claimed in an interview that he had spoken to members of the LGBTQ community that attended games in the Gulf state and that they had praised the tournament.
“This next men’s World Cup is going to be really significant in terms of inclusive messaging at a time when we’re seeing a global backlash, including in parts of the U.S., for example,” Englefield added.
“Visibility is really key but so is the notion that LGBTQ+ people will be really included and will be an integral part of the tournament.”
She described the initial response from organizations on the ground as “overwhelmingly enthusiastic”, adding: “We believe that local communities are best equipped to envision and deliver their own programming and we look forward to securing agreements with the rest of our transnational Pride House partners.”
With nearly three years still to go, there are sure to be unforeseen challenges and changes. One may be in the offing in Los Angeles, with reports this week suggesting that Los Angeles’ SoFi Stadium may not be used after all due to a disagreement between Rams owner Stan Kroenke and FIFA over playing-field accommodations.
Senett is sure however that come 2026, the network of Pride Houses that are in place will combine to send out a powerful statement.
“Much has been said about the unifying power of sport, and indeed, this World Cup will put unity on display as three countries cooperate to deliver a world-class experience,” she added.
“As members of the LGBTQ+ community — a community that’s increasingly under attack from escalating violence, discriminatory rhetoric, and hostile laws — we’re eager to demonstrate strength, integrity, and solidarity. And, of course, take part in the world’s largest sports competition.”