KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City put its best foot forward Thursday, hoping to earn a bid to be one of the 10 U.S. host cities for the 2026 World Cup.
But the pitch to put the world’s best soccer players on the pitch at Arrowhead Stadium was done virtually because of the global coronavirus pandemic.
There was no rolling out of the red carpet. Instead, 11 members of KC 2026 simply logged on.
“We should be welcoming people from FIFA and across the world for site visits to see the venues, to see our city and how we operate here, and now we don’t know when that can happen yet,” said Kathy Nelson, president and CEO of the Kansas City Sports Commission & Foundation.
The World Cup’s governing body remains in Switzerland where they video chatted with Kansas City’s mayor, Sporting KC, the Kansas City Sports Commission and other members of KC 2026’s executive committee Thursday.
Nelson said the meeting was mostly about updating FIFA on what’s changed in Kansas City the past two years since U.S. Soccer, Canada Soccer and Mexico F.A. submitted the original winning joint bid. That bid contained 17 U.S. cities which will be whittled down to 10.
“The airport is a critical part of this, especially on any event that we are bidding on,” Nelson said. “But when you think of World Cup and international visitors, that airport is completely critical and a big part of what we are putting forward.”
Kansas City is one of the first among U.S. finalists to make their pitch.
Meeting virtually could be seen as a disadvantage since none of the FIFA Congress had ever been to Kansas City, some had never heard of it before the bid.
“It is our job to bring Kansas City to life for folks who may not know it,” said Lynn Berling Manuel, United Soccer Coaches president and CEO.
They sold Kansas City’s location not just in the Midwest, but the center of the continent.
But they wanted to make sure FIFA knows it’s a city with fans passionate about football and futbol. The Women’s World Cup Watch Party FOX4 co-hosted along with Bid KC2026 in 2019 is a prime example.
“For anybody who didn’t attend, it was magical, and if that’s the kind of preview that we can give for a World Cup experience, we’ve got it in the bag,” Berling-Manuel said.
“I think pictures speak volumes,” Nelson said. “When you are able to show a picture of the World Series parade and Super Bowl parade and Arrowhead Stadium being the loudest in the world, and they start to absorb those images, that makes me very proud that our city has those images to showcase to the world.”
Children’s Mercy Park, Park University’s athletic complex and the Chiefs practice facility are part of the bid as potential practice facilities for teams leading up to matches at Arrowhead.
If World Cup games are played in Kansas City in 2026, studies show it would have bigger economic impact on the metro than Patrick Mahomes’ half-billion dollar contract. It’s expected to bring in up to $620 million.
When jokingly asked if she convinced the MVP quarterback to sign his contract before Thursday’s pitch meeting, Nelson explained Mahomes is an honorary bid captain along with Salvador Perez and Matt Besler.
Because of the pandemic, final decisions on host cities likely won’t come until late next year. FIFA still hopes to be able to fly internationally for site visits.
The 2026 World Cup will be the first with an expanded tournament of 48 nations. The following are the 23 candidate North American host cities.
- Canada: Edmonton, Montreal, Toronto
- Mexico: Guadalajara, Mexico City, Monterrey
- USA: Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Cincinnati, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, New York/New Jersey, Orlando, Philadelphia, San Francisco Bay area, Seattle and Washington DC.