Community leaders are making ready for a late October visit by a delegation from U.S. Soccer and FIFA, the sport’s global governing body, that will help decide whether Kansas City makes the cut as a host city for the 2026 World Cup.
Seventeen U.S. cities are in the running for the 10 spots. Each community chosen can, according to one study, expect a short-term economic impact up to $620 million, as well as worldwide attention, the director of Kansas City’s bid effort told the Jackson County Legislature on Monday.
But that benefit — and the study also said it could be as low as $90 million after expenses — won’t come without local investments in the “tens of millions of dollars” over the next five years, said Katherine Fox, director of KC2026 FIFA World Cup Bid.
Those investments would include alterations of the field at Arrowhead Stadium to suit international soccer specifications and creation of a festival area for fans to gather and watch the matches on big screens.
Fox attended Monday’s regular meeting of the legislature to ask the county to spend $15,000, in part to help pay the expenses of entertaining the selection committee when its members arrive sometime after Oct. 19.
“It’s a pretty substantial site visit that we’re required to plan,” Fox said.
Legislators approved, as the money had already been set aside in the annual budget, and because Jackson County will not be alone in underwriting the fund that will pay for the visit and other costs associated with becoming one of the chosen 10.
Both Kansas City and the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kansas, have also contributed to the fund, as have Sporting Kansas City and VisitKC, Fox said.
Fox did not immediately return a call seeking information about those contributions, but documents suggests that the Unified Government and Kansas City gave at least twice as much as Jackson County.
Last week, 24 delegates from FIFA and US Soccer wrapped up a nine-day tour that took them to nine other contenders: Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Miami, Nashville, Orlando, Philadelphia, the New York City area and Washington, D.C. The group was led by Victor Montagliani, FIFA vice president and president of Concacaf, which is the association of soccer clubs in North and Central America and the Caribbean.
In addition to Kansas City, other U.S. cities in the running include Cincinnati, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. Three cities in Mexico and three in Canada will also host 20 of the 80 games that will be played overall
FIFA recently announced that it will conclude its site selection visits in November and announce its picks around the end of March.
If Kansas City is selected, teams will play at Arrowhead. Practice sites include Children’s Mercy Park, Julian Field at Park University and the training complex next to Arrowhead.
Kansas City’s host committee has been working toward the site visit since the United States, Canada and Mexico submitted their successful joint bid in 2018. The World Cup is held every four years. The 2022 tournament will be in Qatar.
Along with its funding request, the Kansas City host committee submitted a four and a half page document outlining some of the challenges facing Kansas City in trying to host one of the world’s largest and most prestigious sporting events.
Deadlines for complying with new criteria are fast approaching, the document said, with one in November and another at the end of January. Money needs to be raised to support the city’s bid to host the tournament and far more, should that bid be successful.
Building on the city’s already strong soccer culture and infrastructure is also a must, the document says, and would include developing “an 8-year strategic plan to grow the game, to make it more inclusive of all communities, and affordable for all who wish to play.”
Two other challenges facing local leaders: Convincing FIFA that Kansas City can compensate for a public transportation system that FIFA has already determined is weaker than the other potential host cities. KC also got a poor grade for room availability, ranking at the bottom in terms of accommodations.
Between an expanded streetcar system and putting more buses on the street during the competition, Kansas City can meet the transportation needs of getting to and from events, hotels and the new airport, the host city committee believes.
As for hotel rooms, “Kansas City’s hotel inventory is rapidly increasing, with several new projects announced since the bid was submitted, and with new projects announced almost every month,” the document said.
The date of the site selection visit? Fox said that is a secret, but sometime after Oct. 20, she said.