KANSAS CITY, Mo. — On Thursday, Kansas City will learn its fate as a 2026 World Cup host city and former Kansas City Wizard and current FOX Sports soccer analyst Alexi Lalas reflected on his time in the Soccer Capital of America.
“It was a very different landscape than it is today with regards to soccer and for that city, let’s be honest,” Lalas said. “I had a a wonderful time. The people there were incredible. We weren’t very good on the field, but off the field, gosh, what a community and what a city. A huge soccer city.”
When Lalas played in Kansas City in the 1999 season, the Wizards called Arrowhead Stadium home. Since then, the former United States men’s national team defender said the landscape of soccer has changed drastically.
“The culture of Kansas City soccer has changed so much since then and for the good. I was playing back there with guys like Preki and Mo Johnston and these types of incredible players, but it was a very, vey different time culture and landscape when it comes to soccer,” Lalas said.
The season after Lalas left Kansas City, the Wizards won the MLS Supporters Shield and the 2000 MLS Cup. In 2010, the team experienced a rebrand, bringing the birth of Sporting Kansas City who have since won three Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cups and an MLS Cup in 2013.
The club also ushered in a state of the art soccer-specific stadium in Children’s Mercy Park in 2011.
While the domestic soccer landscape continues to grow in Kansas City and the rest of the United States, bringing a World Cup match to the Midwest would put Kansas City on the world’s stage.
“While it lasts one day for that game it continues on. the impact can be generational in terms of exposing people to the game. It’s also an advertisement for the countries involved, in this case Mexico, the United States and Canada, but also the communities and the cities involved,” Lalas said.
Fans from all the 48 qualified nations will descend onto the United States, Canada and Mexico in 2026, setting up an opportunity to leave a lasting impression on the world.
“People come into your community and maybe some people come in that have never been there before. People either domestically come in or internationally come in for these World Cups and they will be exposed to what Kansas City is as a city and everybody in Kansas City,” Lalas said. “You can leave them with an incredible impression of not just the United States, but the individual cities that they’re gonna visit.”
FIFA will announce the winning candidates starting at 4 p.m. on Thursday.