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Leaders On Both Sides Of State Line Prepare To Make Their Case For The 2026 World Cup In Kansas City

Greg Echlin
KCUR 89.3
In February, U.S. Soccer will begin the process of choosing which cities will host 2026 World Cup games. The Kansas City metro is one of 17 cities still in the running. Both Kansas City and KCK are part of the bid.

With all the hullabaloo surrounding the Chiefs playing Sunday in the AFC Championship game, it is easy to forget there is another huge sporting event looming on the horizon.

Will Kansas City host some matches in the 2026 World Cup? Efforts to start answering that question are picking up steam.

Last Friday, Mayor Quinton Lucas and the Kansas City Sports Commission got a letter from U.S. Soccer saying the 2026 site selection process will resume next month.

"As we begin a new year, we will be transitioning into the planning phase of preparations for the tournament," the letter from U.S. Soccer President Carlos Cordeiro said. "We are delighted that the United States has 17 world-class cities and stadiums competing to be part of the first 48-team FIFA World Cup in history."

KCUR has obtained the letter under the Missouri Sunshine Act.

"The process will begin in February and will conclude in early 2021," said Sports Commission President Kathy Nelson.

All 17 cities will attend workshops next month to learn more about the site selection process, Nelson said. Site visits to each city are expected to happen between March and November. 

"There's a lot yet to understand and learn. So I think we'll learn first off how this venue selection will work and we'll learn more about venue visits," Nelson said.

U.S. Soccer said in its letter that "the venue visits will be split into two phases, meaning each venue will be visited twice."

The venue in Kansas City is Arrowhead Stadium which, the city's bid said, will have to be slightly reconfigured for soccer. FIFA requires the field to have certain dimensions so the number of seats would drop from about 76,000 for football to 69,000 for potential World Cup matches.

If selected, Kansas City would host quarterfinal matches and possibly the third-place match.

The bid from Kansas City encompasses both sides of the state line with officials hoping to use other soccer venues, including Sporting KC's home park in Kansas City, Kansas, and hotel for fans and teams around the metro. 

And Nelson says she is looking beyond the metro for support.

"We're reaching out to all of the states that surround us to get them on board to support Kansas City's bid. So that's been one area of focus that we actually have someone on our staff that dedicated just to that."

Lucas is also confident. “Kansas City has proven time and time again that we are excellent hosts for large-scale sports events and otherwise, and I’m confident that we are well-poised to host the 2026 World Cup," he said in a statement.

The other contending U.S. cities are New York/New Jersey, Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Cincinnati, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Miami, Nashville, Orlando, Philadelphia, San Francisco/Bay Area, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

U.S. Soccer will narrow that field to ten. Games will also be played in Canada and Mexico.

Sam Zeffis KCUR's metro reporter. You can follow Sam on Twitter @samzeff

You deserve to know what your taxpayer dollars are paying for and what public officials are doing on your behalf – I’ll work to report on irresponsible government spending in the Kansas City area and shed light on controversies that slow government down. And when you hear my voice in the morning, you know you’re getting everything you need to start your day. Email me at sam@kcur.org, find me on Twitter @samzeff or call me at 816-235-5004.
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