Which World Cup host city has the best transit?

Dall-E prompt: A soccer ball riding a train in the style of Salvador Dali

With the 2026 World Cup host cities announced my friend Julian posed a question: which of the 16 cities is the most transit-accessible? It’s not a straightforward question, with the host cities across North America having very different geographies, layouts and transit networks. To standardize the question a bit I looked at how long it would take, via transit, to get from each city’s major international airport to a downtown transit hub plus how long it would take to travel from the transit hub to the stadium site. It’s not perfect, and I try to note the airport and geography quirks where I can, but it should give us a good idea of which city offers the best car-free experience for a World Cup game. My full transit timetable is available here.

Hall of Shame

Dallas, Texas — AT&T Stadium

This should come as no surprise. While there are light rail connections from Dallas-Forth Worth and Dallas Love Field airports into downtown Dallas, there is not a public transit connection of any kind to AT&T Stadium (which is in Arlington, not Dallas). In addition to all the other reasons to avoid Dallas, you can add “no stadium transit” to your list.

Not Ranked

Monterrey, Nuevo Leon — Estadio BBVA Bancomer / Guadalajara, Jalisco — Estadio Akron

I am not ranking Monterrey and Guadalajara because they do not offer direct transit connections to their international airports. Each city has a bus system and rail network (Monterrey’s is delightfully named the “Metrorrey”) but you have to get from the airport to downtown first to enjoy it. These cities do provide transit to their stadiums, so they aren’t quite as barren as Dallas-Arlington, but I couldn’t recommend them as transit-oriented World Cup destinations.

Rankings

#13 Kansas City, Missouri — Arrowhead Stadium

I was prepared to add Kansas City to my Hall of Shame, but even for one of the most car-oriented stadiums in existence there is a transit option! Crazier still, each leg can be done with a single-seat bus ride. So it’s possible, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend it. This is the longest transit connection of all the cities ranked here and there’s nothing redeeming about it, other than it doesn’t require any transfers. Unless you need barbecue, book your trip elsewhere.

#12: Miami, Florida — Hard Rock Stadium

Miami offers a good (by American standards) 40-minute connection to downtown via the Miami Metrorail Orange Line. Unfortunately getting out to Hard Rock Stadium (sited north of the airport, even further from downtown) is another matter. Google Maps recommends a Metrorail-to-bus transfer that takes 82 minutes. Intrepid train lovers can also do a Metrorail-to-TriRail-to-bus-to-bus trip but that 4-seat journey doesn’t sound very appealing. Flying into Fort Lauderdale is equivalent; FLL is about the same distance from downtown Fort Lauderdale and downtown is about the same distance from Hard Rock.

In spite of all that, I think Miami is a sleeper to host some of the high-profile matches because of the conveniently-located Opa Locka Airport. This is a non-commercial airstrip about a 10 minute drive from Hard Rock, which is certainly appealing to FIFA executives and the well-heeled who would be attending a late-stage World Cup match.

#11: Los Angeles, California — SoFi Stadium

There are several factors to consider for LA, given the sprawl of the city and the subsequent insignificance of its “downtown.” Los Angeles has transit options but they are just too chaotic for me to rank the city any higher. Flying into LAX enables a quick (for LA) 35-minute bus ride to downtown’s Union Station, but from there it’s a messy 65-minute journey with multiple transfers back out to SoFi. Flying into Burbank yields the same result. LAX-to-SoFi direct is only a 41-minute single-seat bus ride, but unless you happen to have a friend in Inglewood (or want to stay in the LAX Four Seasons) that’s probably not very helpful. It’s LA; the unfortunate reality is that you’ll have to ride in a car at some point.

#10: Houston, Texas — NRG Stadium

Like Kansas City, I was pleasantly surprised that an airport-to-downtown-to-stadium trip was even possible in Houston. Better yet, it’s a single bus ride from the airport, and then a single light rail trip to the stadium. Houston, rightly, catches a lot of flak from urbanists but at least they are trying with their transit (looking at you, Dallas!) The downside here is that Houston is BIG, and it’s a 53-minute ride from the airport followed by a 41-minute ride to the stadium.

#9: San Jose, California — Levi’s Stadium

San Jose is the first strong transit city on our list, with direct rail connections from the airport to downtown and from downtown to the stadium. Flying into San Jose Airport (SJC) offers the shortest airport trip, just 48 minutes, but San Francisco International (SFO) is also viable with a 65-minute connection. And, if you must, you can even connect from Oakland (OAK) but it’s about a two-hour ride around that side of the Bay. There are lots of transit options here, just not particularly fast ones.

#8: New York City, New York — MetLife Stadium

NYC is probably the best transit city in North America but suffers when it comes to airport and stadium connections. By my airport-downtown-stadium metric, the fastest journey is a bus from Newark International Airport (EWR) to the Port Authority Bus Terminal, followed by another bus from the Port Authority terminal to MetLife, for a total journey time of 75 minutes. The best option is to not leave New Jersey at all: for large events at MetLife NJ Transit runs a Meadowlands service from Hoboken, which would cut the total trip time to under an hour.

Newark stands out for its direct rail and bus connections and proximity to MetLife. The same can’t be said for JFK or LaGuardia airports, which largely lack direct connections and require traveling through New York City to get to New Jersey. If you’re a transit-oriented tourist, Newark must be your airport of choice.

#7: Boston, Massachusetts — Gillette Stadium

This is the first big surprise on the list, driven by Boston’s top-tier airport geography. Logan International is just a 16-minute ride from South Station, making it incredibly easy to get off an airplane and into the city. And from there, Gillette Stadium in Foxborough is accessible via special MBTA service that takes 53 minutes. Foxborough is FAR, which hurts Boston, but at least it’s still accessible.

#6: Mexico City, Mexico — Estadio Azteca

I say that NYC is probably the best transit city in North America because Mexico City is a strong challenger. The sprawling megalopolis has extensive rail and bus networks and jumps ahead of the Big Apple on this list because of how the airport and stadium are more neatly connected with transit. The enormity of CDMX is the only thing holding it back, given that the airport and the iconic Estadio Azteca are both far from the city center. Mexico City is a very strong transit city, but it doesn’t have the fastest connections for a World Cup trip.

#5: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania — Lincoln Financial Field

Philadelphia has an excellent airport connection, linking to the 30th St Station hub in just 19 minutes, and also connects to the stadium via regular transit line. It’s a strong transit city otherwise, making this a great overall destination for trainspotters. One x-factor for Philly is that the airport is essentially right next to the stadium (but not linked directly by transit). If you wanted to go from the airport directly to the game (via taxi) this would be the place to do it.

#4: Seattle, Washington — Lumen Field

We’ve entered the top tier of our list, and the final four cities all have at least one thing in common: their stadium is very close to their downtown transit hub. While this might not be the best urban planning, it is very convenient for World Cup visitors. Seattle is the archetype, with a long-but-direct rail connection from the airport to the city and then a short 9-minute connection from downtown to Lumen Field. The only thing hurting Seattle is its airport, which sits well south of the city.

#3: Toronto, Ontario — BMO Field

Toronto offers a 25-minute rail connection from the airport to the downtown Union Station hub and just an 8-minute GO ride from downtown to BMO Field. What’s not to love?

#2: Vancouver, British Columbia — BC Place

Vancouver actually has slightly slower transit connections (29 and 9 minutes, respectively) than its Canadian compatriot, but edges ahead because BC Place is only a 17-minute walk from the downtown Waterfront transit hub. A trip to Vancouver might only involve a train to and from the airport, which can’t be said for any other city lower on this list.

#1: Atlanta, Georgia — Mercedes-Benz Stadium

Yes, really. I couldn’t believe it either. Atlanta has an amazing airport connection, zipping travelers from Hartsfield-Jackson International to the downtown Five Points hub in just 17 minutes. From there, Mercedes-Benz Stadium is just a 4-minute MARTA ride or 13-minute walk away. I don’t recommend Atlanta as a transit destination in general, but when it comes to getting from the airport to the stadium it can’t be beat.

Takeaways

So will Atlanta be your destination of choice for the 2026 World Cup? You should strongly consider it. Atlanta has some of the worst and most car-centric urban planning in North America, but they nail two things every city could get right: getting to and from the airport is fast, and the stadium isn’t out in the hinterlands. Cities that missed out on hosting games should look to that facet of Atlanta as a model (just PLEASE don’t copy anything else.)

Boring methodology notes: All transit times were estimated using Google Maps, setting the departure time to 9:00am on Monday, June 20. I did not consider transit reliability/frequency in my analysis, because transit agencies will probably beef up service for a big event like a World Cup match.

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