A look back at the 1994 FIFA World Cup in Orlando

In 1988, three nations competed to host the 1994 FIFA World Cup. These nations included the United States, Brazil and Morocco.

At the time, the US had never hosted the international tournament and a US men’s soccer team had made only three World Cup appearances in World Cup history, the most recent being in 1950. As it turned out, the US were chosen to host the 1994 FIFA World Cup, but on one condition. FIFA called for the creation of a professional soccer league, and out of this Major League Soccer was born, with league operations beginning in 1996.

Tampa and Miami competed with Orlando for the title of host city for the 1994 FIFA World Cup. Stadium conflicts in Miami put South Florida out of the running, and Orlando’s growing reputation as an international tourist destination gave the City Beautiful an advantage over Tampa. Orlando would eventually be selected as one of nine host cities.

Opening Ceremony in Orlando (Photo by Phil O’Brien/EMPICS via Getty Images)

24 teams qualified, divided into six groups of four. Sixteen teams would qualify for the knockout stage, with group winners, group runners-up and the four third-place teams with best records. This was the last time this format was used due to the expansion of the 1998 World Cup to 32 teams.

Orlando received five games – four games of the opening round and one game of the round of 16. Teams that played in Orlando included Belgium, Ireland, Morocco, Mexico and the Netherlands.

Opening round of the 1994 FIFA World Cup in Orlando

  • 19 June 1994: Belgium defeats Morocco 1-0
  • June 24, 1994: Mexico defeats the Republic of Ireland 2-1
  • 25 June 1994: Belgium defeats the Netherlands 1-0
  • 29 June 1994: Morocco defeats the Netherlands 2-1

Round of 16 of the 1994 FIFA World Cup in Orlando

  • 4 July 1994: Netherlands defeat Republic of Ireland, 2-0 (attendance: 61,355)

The 1994 World Cup was a great success for America. Cumulative attendance of 3,587,538 surpassed the previous record by more than 1 million, and the average attendance for the 52-game tournament of 68,991 also set a new mark, according to US Soccer.

Brazil would be crowned the winners of the 1994 FIFA World Cup after beating Italy 3-2 on penalties at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.

In July 2018, Canada, Mexico and the United States were awarded the right to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup. Orlando has again applied to be the host city. Despite years of hard work to lure the World Cup back to the City Beautiful, Orlando was passed over for the 2026 tournament.

Despite the lost 2026 bid, Orlando has established itself as a major football market. Orlando has made a significant investment in the renovation of Camping World Stadium in hopes of attracting major sporting and entertainment events. Orlando City Soccer Club started playing in 2015 as the 21st franchise in MLS and has also built a huge fan base showing that the region is big on soccer.

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