The possibility of a World Cup in Kansas City remains just that — simply a possibility — but it took one procedural step closer to becoming reality Tuesday.
Kansas City representatives submitted an official bid Tuesday to serve as a host site for the 2026 World Cup, with Arrowhead Stadium as the designated venue to hold matches.
Sporting Club CEO Robb Heineman and team president Jake Reid presented the proposal in person in New York City with a booklet titled, “Unity,” bypassing the option to fill out an online application.
“We want to differentiate ourselves in any way we can, so a lot of people spent time, money and human resources putting together the proper presentation,” Reid said. “We went for it.”
The United States, Canada and Mexico have submitted a unified bid to play host to the 2026 World Cup. The North American bid is considered the favorite to win the tournament. It won’t learn that for certain until summer 2018, but it has begun locating potential sites for matches.
A total of 34 United States cities were included in the list of possibilities from the Unified Bid Committee last month. After receiving official entries Tuesday, it’s expected the committee will trim that list to about 20-25 stadiums later this fall. If North America is awarded the 2026 World Cup, it’s likely that a dozen U.S. cities will host at least one match. Some will host more.
On its application, the committee asked its potential host sites how they could serve the overall mission of unity. The booklet describing the bid from Kansas City — which lists Chiefs owner and CEO Clark Hunt and Sporting KC principal owner Cliff Illig as its co-chairmen — outlined a joint effort to secure games, which includes the Kansas City Sports Commission & Foundation, along with the Royals, FC Kansas City and the mayors and city managers from both sides of the state line.
“Nothing I have worked on has connected or united our cities more than this bid,” said Kathy Nelson, the Kansas City Sports Commission president. “As a staff, we talk a lot about how the state line is a connector, not a divider, and this has truly blurred that (state) line.”
Every city is required to prove it has “top-level training sites and locations for team base camps,” per the Unified Bid Committee, which will make the final selections. In response, Kansas City highlighted the National Training and Coaching Development Center, which is scheduled for completion early this winter. It also pointed to the Swope Soccer Village training center and Children’s Mercy Park, the home stadium for Sporting KC.
If North America wins its bid, Reid said he believes approximately eight United States cities are locks to host matches. That leaves the rest fighting for the final four spots.
“We think we’re as well-positioned as anyone else,” Reid said. “We are able to pull together their theme — unity — better than anyone, we believe. Hopefully that resonates with them.”
If Kansas City is selected, it would be a rich endeavor. The commission put together a bid when the United States was aiming for the 2018 World Cup, and it estimated a $500 million infusion into the local economy.
By comparison: A banner year for 2017 sporting events in Kansas City that has included (or will include) the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, the Big 12 men’s basketball tournament, an NCAA men’s basketball regional, the NCAA Division II football national championship and the NCAA Division I volleyball national championships, among others, has an estimated $56 million in economic impact, Nelson said.
“This would be much larger than anything we’ve ever hosted,” Nelson said. “As busy as our city is, we haven’t done anything to the scale of what could happen if we’re awarded World Cup matches.”