How did Kansas City land the World Cup?

Published: Jun. 17, 2022 at 6:11 PM CDT
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - An unprecedented number of visitors will travel to the region in 2026 for the World Cup, which will likely be a once-in-a-lifetime event for the metro area.

Kansas City beat out several larger metro areas in its bid to be a host city, including Orlando, Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

However, throughout the process, FIFA officials indicated that population wasn’t the only factor they were looking for. “It’s not necessarily the size of the city we’re looking at, but the size of your heart,” one delegate remarked during a press conference while visiting Kansas City in 2021.

Kathy Nelson, who is the CEO of the Kansas City Sports Commission and Director of Visit KC, believes the city’s “heart” was a deciding factor in the league’s decision. Nelson was instrumental in putting together an organized bid. It was an effort that brought together two states, several cities and dozens of local organizations.

“We really sold ourselves on our passion, our collaboration, and how many people want this,” Nelson said.

FIFA has chosen smaller cities for past World Cup matches. Saransk, Russia, hosted games in 2018 with a population of roughly 300,000. Al Khor, Qatar, is hosting matches this year. It has a population of around 200,000.

Kansas City brought its own practical assets that Nelson believed gave the Midwest an edge. The metro area’s location in the middle of the country was an advantage. KC is a four-hour flight away from the other host cities.

Another feather in the city’s cap was a thriving downtown and expanding streetcar. Another ongoing project that may have tipped the scales was the construction of a new airport terminal.

David Pruente with the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce said Kansas City may not have been a viable candidate without improvements to KCI.

“This was the perfect representation of the business case for the airport,” Pruente said.

Other perks to Kansas City included an abundance of pro-level soccer facilities and thriving sports culture. The city also has an abundance of hotel rooms, with approximately 34,000 in the metropolitan area. Also, Arrowhead Stadium was the fifth-largest venue among the finalist cities with a capacity of 80,000.

“We’re world-class, Kansas City. We’ve been working on this a long time. We did it the right way. I think everyone can benefit from this,” Pruente said.