FIFA selects Kansas City as a host site for 2026 World Cup

Kansas City earned its biggest tourism and hospitality win ever with the news Thursday that FIFA selected it as a once-in-a-generation host city for the 2026 World Cup.

FIFA still needs to announce how many games Kansas City will host and in which rounds, the biggest factors for determining the matches’ economic impact. It’s estimated to be anywhere from $160 million to $620 million. Kansas City can expect to host five to seven games, Katherine Holland, director of the KC2026 World Cup Bid, said previously.

Eleven U.S. cities will be hosts, Mexico will have three cities, and Canada will have two holding games. The U.S. last hosted the World Cup in 1994.

Matches in Kansas City will be played at Arrowhead Stadium, which has a capacity for about 76,000 fans a game. At least an additional 25,000 fans are expected to come to the city without tickets just to take in the event, attending an official FIFA Fan Fest World Cup Watch Party. Kansas City will host its fan fest at either Union Station or on the south lawn of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

Kansas City has been working on its bid for five years, Sporting KC lead commentator Nate Bukaty said Thursday at a watch party, where hundreds of people gathered to watch a live FIFA announcement broadcast of the host cities.

These are the other U.S. host cities: Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Boston, Philadelphia, Miami and New York/New Jersey.

In Canada, Vancouver and Toronto will host, as well as Guadalajara, Monterrey and Mexico City in Mexico.

A combined 3.572 billion people — more than half of the world population age 4 and older — watched at least some of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, according to an audit performed for FIFA. Through 64 matches, the average live viewership for each match was 191 million. To put that into perspective, the 2022 Super Bowl attracted 208 million viewers.

Kansas City’s bid had a lot going for it. These include: the Power & Light District, the streetcar (whose southern extension to the Country Club Plaza is to open in early 2025), the $325 million Loews Kansas City Hotel, Sporting Kansas City, the Kansas City Current, the U.S. Soccer National Development Center, Arrowhead, the new single terminal at Kansas City International Airport (which opens in 2023) and other factors.

But the biggest benefit was Kansas City’s central location. With Chicago and St. Louis out of the mix as host cities, that left the states of Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Wisconsin within an eight-hour drive ­— and without host-city bids.

Kansas City now will have to get to work. It needs to raise millions of dollars to cover costs for hosting the event. Expenses include modifications to Arrowhead to accommodate the wider soccer pitch. FIFA also requires host cities to provide free transportation to and from the event site for fans with tickets, so it will need to organize a satellite park-and-ride system.

This story is from the Kansas City Business Journal.