As you may recall, a while back I made a fun (completely subjective) unscientific list of what I thought were the 10 coolest national soccer stadiums (stadiums that host a FIFA recognized national men’s soccer team). This list builds on that with the 10 coolest new national team soccer stadiums that are planned, under construction, or existing stadiums that are under extensive renovations and upgrades in order to be the new host of a national team.
1.) Teddy Stadium, West Jerusalem, Israel (Under Renovation, 2019)
Originally built in 1990, Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem is in the final phase of it’s 5 year renovation plan that aim to increase the capacity from 19,000 to 50,000, add a roof and expand it’s world class amenities in order to achieve the highest FIFA and UEFA stadium ratings. In 2016, Israel’s national team officially abandoned Ramat Gan Stadium (in Ramat Gan). Since then, they have split their home duties between Teddy Stadium and Samy Ofer Stadium in Haifa. However, once the upgrades and renovations are done, Teddy Stadium is envisioned to be elevated to the role of sole national stadium for Israel. Israel’s underachieving national team, despite several good to great players, is about as bad as it’s ever been right now. Hopefully a new, permanent world class home like Teddy Stadium will provide the stability for them to right the ship and play to their potential.
2.) Arena Kombëtare, Tirana, Albania (Under Construction, Dec. 2018)
The new national arena for Albania is slated to open at the end of 2018, replacing the now demolished Qemal Stafa Stadium, which was not up to international code. With a very impressive and post-modernistic design including a surreal observation tower, the new national stadium will fit 23,000 fans. Albania had been a tough out for the past several years, including their first qualification for the UEFA Euro finals in 2016. However, they did suffer a setback when Kosovo gained UEFA and FIFA membership and some of their dual-nationals jumped ship. Regardless, Albania is still a very good team with an upwards trajectory, and this will be a great stage for their showcase.
3.) New National Olympic Stadium, Tokyo, Japan (Under Construction, Dec. 2019)
While Japan’s national team’s former stadium, National Olympic Stadium, was a formidable home with it’s 48,000 Blue Samurai fan’s screaming in unison, it was starting to demonstrate it’s age. Built for the 1964 Summer Olympics, it had opened in 1958 just in time for that year’s Asian Games. Consequently, when Tokyo was awarded the 2022 Summer Olympics, the old stadium was deemed to be too small, antiquated, and inadequate for a modern day edition of the Olympics. Consequently, it was demolished in 2014 and a new, modern, 81,000 capacity National Olympic Stadium is rising in it’s ashes. While this means that Japan’s national team is spending 5 years barnstorming across the country for their home games, similar to Spain, Germany, the United States and other teams teams who play in large countries lacking a home stadium in a primate city, it is to Japan’s ultimate benefit as they will once again be the beneficiary of a summer Olympics providing them a new, state of the art, Zaha Hadid designed stadium.
4.) New Tehelné pole, Bratislava, Slovakia (Under Renovations, Mar 2018)
While Slovakia is putting the finishing touches on their new 22,500 capacity national stadium, they won’t actually get to showcase it until their next home game in the fall. Over the past 5 years, Slovakia completely demolished and rebuilt the Tehelne Pole in Bratislava. With a sleek modern design, complete with an office/observation tower, they will have a great home field moving forward. While Slovakia has never particularly been a powerhouse in the global game, like the vast majority of UEFA teams, they play against strong competition regularly and can hold their own on any given day with a tough, technical approach, and they do have some stars that will shine bright on their new stage.
5.) Puskás Ferenc Stadium, Budapest, Hungary (Under Renovation, 2019)
Hungary as a nation has been in the midst of a bit of a renaissance as of late. Led by an ambitious, nationalist government, they’ve been tapping this newfound national pride and economic growth (Hungary has averaged 3.9% annual GDP growth the past 3 years, compared to 1.6% for the United States), to make infrastructural improvements. In this vain, Hungary has been completely renovating their national stadium to make it a demonstrative showcase of the Hungarian nation. Improvements include growing capacity from 39,000 to 71,000, while maintaining a more traditional architecture to channel and honer the Golden Team from the 1950s when Hungary was the top dog in international soccer. Hungary hopes that they can use a new and improved stage to recapture those glory years, and channel their current wave of civic pride. Hungary also seeks a semblance of redemption for the lost years after Hungary embarrassed the Soviet Union’s national team in Moscow in 1956 on the eve of the failed Hungarian Revolution, which subsequently led to their national team players either being killed or exiled by the invading Soviet forces.
6.) La Rinconada Football Stadium, Caracas, Venezuela (Planned, TBA)
Venezuela may be struggling financially and in the midst of a bad, self-induced recession, but that hasn’t it stopped it’s sporting authorities from planning a new central sporting complex in the mountains overlooking the capital to showcase and improve their sporting reputation. Along with a new national baseball stadium, basketball arena, bullfighting stadium, tennis stadium, and golf course, Venezuela is planning to build this 44,000 capacity stadium alongside the existing La Rinconada Hippodrome in a soon to be world class sporting oasis and complex, all with views overlooking the city. If and when this project comes to fruition, it could be a mecca of sports in general, not just soccer.
7.) Grand Stade de Casablanca, Casablanca, Morocco (Planned, 2024)
Morocco has been planning on building a new 100,000 capacity national stadium for a while now. They have really only been waiting for an excuse. Originally planned to be built for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations, those initial intentions were scrapped when Morocco ceded hosting duties to Equatorial Guniea due to the Ebola Epidemic. Morocco is bidding against a joint United States/Mexico/Canada bid for the 2026 World Cup, and part of their bid proposal is finally building this stadium as the main showcase venue for those games. However, there is growing rumblings that FIFA might strip the 2022 World Cup from Qatar and give it to the United States to host, and if they do, Morocco would essentially be guaranteed the 2026 World Cup, and this stadium will finally come to fruition.
8.) Paul Biya Stadium, Yaoundé, Cameroon (Under Construction, July 2018)
Cameroon is one of the biggest powerhouses of African soccer, with a very high tempo style of play and a cast of colorful, fun to love characters in their player pool. However, they play in the dilapidated, dusty, 40+ year old, 45,000 capacity Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo which does not serve their brand justice. Thankfully, they are building the new state-of-the-art 60,000 capacity stadium that is just as colorful, fun-loving and light hearted as their squad. When it opens, it will probably be the stadium that best embodies the spirit, style and reputation of the team it hosts the world over.
9.) Stade National de la Côte d’Ivoire, Abidjan, Ivory Coast (Under Construction, Oct 2019)
Another African powerhouse that has not been playing in an appropriate stadium for their reputation, Ivory Coast is finally getting a proper venue to call home. The 70 year old, 45,000 capacity Stade Felix is in it’s final years as it’s being replaced by the state of the art, ultra-modern 60,000 Stade National. While Stade National might not be quite as colorful as Camaroon’s new stadium, it will provide a great and appropriate rival venue, as Ivory Coast and Camaroon continuously push each other for the claim to be the best soccer power in Africa.
10.) Tema Stadium, Accra, Ghana (Planned, 2022)
Not to fall behind in the arms race that is West Africa’s soccer powerhouses, but Ghana is slightly late to the stadium trade-in party. Planned to open in 2022 in the coastal suburbs of Accra, Ghana is following the lead of their fellow African powerhouse brethren Cameroon, Ivory Coast, and Nigeria (who already replaced an old 45,000 capacity stadium with a new, ultra-modern 60,000 capacity stadium last year and thus do not qualify for this list). While Ghana is a bit slow to the party, they are finally replacing their 65 year old, 45,000 capacity Accra Sports Stadium, and once the new Tema Stadium opens in 4 years time, Africa’s four most important and successful national teams will all be competing in new, sleek, and impressive stadiums bringing African soccer into a new glorious era on the world stage.