World Cup destinations better get their political playbook ready if they want to successfully host the games in 2026.
North American destinations are getting ready for the 2026 World Cup, said city officials at the session titled “On the World Stage: Leveraging the 2026 FIFA World Cup Across North America and Beyond” at the Destinations International 2023 Annual Convention.
The 2026 World Cup will take place in 16 destinations in Mexico, U.S. and Canada. The U.S. will have 11 of the host destinations. FIFA will have to work with each individual destination, each of which is responsible for raising its own money.
“We’re very much focused on funding,” said Kathy Nelson, president and CEO of Visit KC. “We’re all trying to figure out a budget.”
A big difference for U.S. destinations will be how the event is paid for. When Russia and Qatar hosted the World Cup, their federal governments covered a large share of the costs. Canada has a sports ministry that supports its host destinations, said Jennifer Stoll, principal of Stoll Strategies and Sports ETA.
“A lot of times for international events, the federal governments of other countries pay for the majority of it, where that’s not the case here in the United States,” said Monica Paul, executive director of the Dallas Sports Commission.
Kansas City, which sits on the Missouri and Kansas state line, has to navigate politics. “We have two governors that we’re trying to appease and ask for money from, multiple mayors, multiple county administrations. Everyone has an agenda,” said Nelson. “It’s the most political hot button I’ve ever been around.”
Kansas City, which has never hosted a major event that needs a governing body in the city, formed a nonprofit called KC 2026 with an appointed board of directors and is hiring staff, said Nelson. Questions on who sits on the board and who votes have become political.
Dallas is putting together its safety and security plan, which will involve a test event in 2025. “We planned for a week, but we’ve got 30 to 45 days straight of World Cup action going on,” said Paul.
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Photo credit: Argentina players celebrate winning the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Reuters