Sports Radio 810’s Nate Bukaty takes a look at Kansas City’s outlook for being selected as one of the 10 American cities to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup, including talking to Kathy Nelson of the Kansas City Sports Commission and other national media members.
Two more weeks. Fourteen days from today. On Thursday, June 16, we will finally find out whether or not Kansas City will be chosen as one of the 16 North American cities to host matches in the 2026 FIFA World Cup. 22 Cities are competing for those 16 spots. Mexico and Canada will each get three cities as host sites, leaving 10 cities for the United States. Kansas City is one of 16 American cities who are vying for those 10 spots.
While soccer fans like me will be waiting on pins and needles until the announcement, my anxiousness probably pales in comparison to that of the folks who have actively worked on this bid. Kathy Nelson, the President and CEO of the Kansas City Sports Commission, joined us on the Border Patrol last week to discuss what has been a long and drawn-out bid process.
“We have been working on this bid since the middle of 2017,” said Nelson. “There have been years and years of work that have gone into it between working with the venue, working with the city, working with both states, and working with Sporting Kansas City. I can’t even begin to tell you how many hours have gone into this.”
So, what are our chances? I get asked that question all of the time, and I have to confess that I don’t have any inside information, outside of what I hear from the folks who have been working on the Kansas City bid. Some of them seem incredibly confident. Others seem quite nervous. I suppose that’s all down to each individual’s personality. So, I reached out to a Kansas City native with more of a national perspective on this question, one America’s most connected soccer writers, Grant Wahl. Joining us on the Sporting Kansas City show this week, Wahl handicapped Kansas City’s chances.
“I’ve been making a lot of calls around to sources I’ve got in the US, and sources outside the US, about this competition between US cities,” said Wahl. “Kanasas City hasn’t really changed too much. I’ve had it in my 10 as cities getting World Cup games, but basically on the bubble. And, you know, some bubble teams, like with the NCAA tournament, get in, and some don’t.”
Wahl believes that location should be a strong point in Kansas City’s favor. “I think you need to have something in the Midwest, and Kansas City has a good soccer culture. It also has the Hunt family, and Arrowhead stadium. I’ve been told that can really help, the history that the Hunt family has had in growing the game of soccer in the United States, when it comes to getting games.”
So, according to Wahl, if we are to carry his NCAA tournament analogy, it appears that Kansas City figures to be one of the “last four in.” I guess that leaves me in a place of cautious optimism. I don’t want to get my hopes up too high, but I also have confidence in my city. One thing in which I have complete faith is the work that our bid committee has done to put Kansas City’s best foot forward in this process. I have a close relationship with several people who have worked tirelessly over the past five years to make this dream a reality. I know the amazing details that they have covered, and the passion with which they have pursued this goal. I know that Kansas City deserves this moment.
The pandemic has caused delays in what would already have been a lengthy and exhausting process. “They should have decided this in December of 2020, so when you think about it, we’re a couple years behind in the planning,” explained Nelson. “Because of COVID and other things happening, they were delayed in flying over to North America to see all of our cities, those types of visits until October.”
I had been under the impression that the site visit this past October was the last of the work that the bid committee had to do. But Nelson informed me that the work wasn’t finished there. “There are still pieces of the puzzle that we are still working on,” she explained. “It’s been an exhausting process and we’ve been spending hours every day the last couple weeks. We had things due back to them on May 31st.”
Now it all comes down to June 16. Ironically, for those directly involved in Kansas City’s bid process, the hope is that the hard work has only just begun. As Nelson described, “If we are selected, there will be a group from Kansas City that will then fly to New York on Sunday the 19th, and we will be there for three or four days in meetings, learning about, as a host city, how do these contracts get signed? What’s next? It kicks in immediately. There’s a lot in front of us before December hits, if we’re selected. And then the work really begins.”