By Fred Liggett
This week the 2018 FIFA World Cup started play with 32 teams participating in Russia. Soccer supporters in Canada, Mexico and the United States had their eyes on Russia for a different reason. The 68th FIFA congress was meeting in Moscow to select the host of the 2026 FIFA World Cup. Kansas City soccer fans and area leaders got up early on Wednesday morning to learn that the United bid of Canada, Mexico and the USA was successful in bringing the event to North America.
The key players in the Kansas City bid to host a World Cup match, KC Sports Commission president Kathy Nelson; Kansas City, KS Mayor David Alvey; Kansas City, MO Mayor Sly James; Sporting KC president Jake Reid; and Kansas City Chiefs president Mark Donovan all hosted a morning press conference at Arrowhead Stadium.
Nelson spoke first and commented on the result shows “What 2 states, 2 cities and 2 pro sports teams can do.” The comment referring to the collaborative effort for this result by Kansas City Kansas, Kansas City, Missouri, along with Sporting KC and Kansas City Chiefs. Before closing Nelson stated it’s a great feeling to be a part of an event spanning all the way from Edmonton to Mexico City.
Chiefs president Mark Donovan added “A local organizing committee met for years to “Be eligible” for the next step in the process”.
Sporting KC president Jake Reid added “It’s pretty remarkable to be here.” Reid continued, “It’s hard to explain how the World Cup will impact the MLS. 2026 will be the 30th anniversary of the league who benefited from the 1994 event held in the United States.”
Kansas City Kansas Mayor David Alvey preached “Unity” during his comments. Unity with both Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri. “Unity also found with Canada, United States and Mexico to get this accomplished.”
Kansas City Mayor Sly James spoke of the attempts made by the city to bid for the 2016 Republican National Convention, Amazon headquarters and now the FIFA World Cup. James mentioned how those bid experiences helped officials work on this bid to bring this big event to the Kansas City area.
The 2026 World Cup marks the first time three nations have been selected to co-host a World Cup. The last time the games were played in North America was in 1994 when the United States was host. If Kansas City does not get to be one of the selected cities to be host to a World Cup game there are plenty of other ways for the metro area to support the World Cup event. Kansas City could house the event’s broadcast center or host several teams training camps. The 2026 World Cup will be the first one held with the expanded format of a 48 team field. There are 211 teams that begin with the hopes of making that limited field.
What’s next? Sometime in 2020 FIFA is expected to announce all the locations selected to play host to World Cup games. The Unified bid lists 23 candidate host cities, with Kansas City being one of them. One city in each of the three countries are guaranteed a game. The USA site widely expected to get selected to host is Met Life Stadium in New York. Kansas City could host as many as five games with all the games being up to the quarterfinal round. The Kansas City committee feels they are ready for what’s next, which is site visits by FIFA. Nelson thinks this round will go well for Kansas City. Earlier in the bid process Nelson mentioned how the committee traveled to Houston and made an eight-hour presentation to FIFA officials. While area soccer fans enjoy watching the current 2018 World Cup unfold in Russia they can keep an eye open for details about when the games will be played much closer to home.