KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As the World Cup comes to a close in Qatar, with Sunday’s final set between Argentina and France, preparations for the 2026 event are already underway in North American cities including Kansas City, Missouri.
A delegation of three official observers from each of the 16 North American host cities attended matches and dozens of site visits last week in Qatar. Kathy Nelson, President and C.E.O. of the Kansas City Sports Commission and Visit K.C., Katherine Holland, World Cup Bid Director, and Executive Vice President of Arrowhead Operations Matt Kenny represented Kansas City.
It was a whirlwind trip that kicked off with the United States in action. But over just a few days Kansas City’s three official observers saw a lot more than just soccer.
“For us to go over there from FIFA’s perspective was for us to understand what it takes to pull off a World Cup and they certainly showed every corner of that for us,” Nelson said.
Inside stadiums they saw locker rooms, how the VIPs and the extra important VIPs would get to their seating areas, including royalty and dignitaries from each nation.
“On top of that we toured VIP hotels, media centers, broadcast centers, international broadcast centers, fan bases, fan experiences, fan festivals so its the enormity of different venues that make this happen,” Nelson said.
Those media areas included set ups to feed 1,000 media members and thousands upon thousands of feet of organized cable. It’s what goes into every match.
On top of matches each of North America’s 16 cities will provide an additional role, which could be training camp for officials, or the international broadcast center for example.
There will also be training camps for players and base camps for nations. The observers got a look at each, and queues set up for transportation with plenty expected in Kansas City on match off days for fans.
“Whether their country was playing or not, there was something for them to do. There was a fan experience everyday, a fan festival everyday, sponsor activations. Then of course activations within the city which is where I think we will really shine being able to showcase Kansas City in and around those matches.”
It means there’s a lot to do in less than four years. World Cup 2022 kicked off later than usual because of Qatar’s heat. The goal won’t be to recreate all of Doha’s glitz and glamour. But after seeing it first hand, Kansas City organizers have a better grasp of FIFA’s expectations.
“Yes there are some things that will keep me up at night now moving forward in the next few years, there’s some things I’ll sleep better on as well knowing that we’ll do it better,” Nelson said.
There are also still a lot of unknowns including exactly what the format of this expanded 48 team tournament will be. FIFA is debating both three team and four team group stages which could mean between 80 and 102 matches.
Perhaps the biggest thing that needs to be ironed out pretty quickly is what changes are going to be needed at Arrowhead to make the American football stadium ready to FIFA standards for what much of the rest of the world refers to as football.
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