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World Cup 2026: Host city revelation lays bare sprawling, profitable business | World Cup 2026

The crowd went wild, a whirlwind screaming, jumping, waving flags and banging their fists in red-white-and-blue joy. And why not? Kansas City had just won the 2026 World Cup.

The selection process for the host city of the tournament in the United States, Mexico and Canada went like a World Cup itself: a few no-hopers, underdogs who went further than expected, a few flops surprising and predictable triumphs for the favorites.

KC Live Fans! watch party for the announcement of the winners Thursday celebrated what until recently seemed an unlikely victory. When Fifa evaluated Kansas City’s bid in 2018, it received some of the lowest ratings for accommodation and transportation among applicants.

But the airport is being rebuilt, the football culture is vibrant, the Hunt family is among the most influential dynasties in American sport, and Missouri has passed a bill exempting World Cup tickets from taxes. sale, unlike Colorado.

In any case, it would have been remiss not to pick any town in the Midwest, even if the location map still looks odd. There was a glaring omission even before the United North American bid beat Morocco in 2018, since the then mayor of Chicago – the third largest city in the United States, sports enthusiast and the base of the American Soccer Federation – took a look at the potential financial liabilities and balked. Just like Montreal, which dropped out of the race last summer when the Quebec government refused to make a $75 million contribution.

Edmonton was rejected by Fifa, which means Canada only has two cities compared to Mexico’s three and USA’s 11. And KC beat DC. “You can’t imagine a World Cup being held in the United States and the capital not playing a major role as well,” Colin Smith, FIFA’s head of tournaments and events, told reporters on Thursday. But it’s What is happening.

Even partnering with nearby Baltimore and its solid downtown stadium after Fifa inspectors shot down the dreary and remote FedEx Field, he couldn’t sway the governing body, which preferred Boston – another location with a problematic location, but influential backing from billionaire team owner Robert Kraft. A US senator described Fifa as a ‘mafia-style crime syndicate’ during a congressional hearing in Washington in 2015, so maybe world football’s power brokers won’t be too clueless to skip town .

This World Cup will bear little resemblance to USA ’94, although Diana Ross will make an appearance at the opening ceremony. (Don’t bet against it.) Going into this 24-team tournament, the USMNT had only appeared in one World Cup since 1950 and MLS was not born.

World Cup 2026
City officials celebrate at a rally in Philadelphia on Thursday after learning that Fifa had selected it as one of 11 U.S. cities chosen to host matches for the 2026 World Cup. Photography: Joseph Kaczmarek/REX/Shutterstock

It will also be very different from Qatar 2022, as the World Cup skids from a compressed 32-team, 64-game winter contest in a country smaller than Connecticut to a bloated transcontinental summer extravaganza of 48 nations and 80 fixtures.

At USA ’94, there were nine host cities. The Boston, Bay Area, Los Angeles, New York and Dallas areas will repeat, but none of the 1994 stadiums will be used in 2026. The ancient Rose Bowl, where Brazil won its fourth title, has been abandoned in favor of the new SoFi stadium. .

Fifa has not revealed where the showpiece matches will take place. New York is the favorite for the final, but what does it matter? Homogenization is a goal of any large, efficient international company, whether you are Starbucks or a Swiss non-profit organization that manages world football.

“Exoticism is diluted now. People talk about hosting the World Cup,” journalist and author Jonathan Wilson wrote in 2014, “but in reality every World Cup now takes place in Fifaland, a generic duty-free bubble with the name of the venue written in it on a billboard. down the middle line because otherwise there’s no way of knowing where you were.

Fifa President Gianni Infantino was in Manhattan for the live reveal, but given the tournament’s economic elitism, Davos might have been a more appropriate location.

The revenue growth is staggering. Fifa said it made a surplus of nearly $100 million in the 1994 tournament on revenue of $235 million. When it ran for 2026, the North American bid predicted $14 billion in revenue and an $11 billion surplus for Fifa. The governing body is literally a law unto itself, insisting that governments agree to provide “exemptions from labor and other legislation,” streamlined border and work permit processes, and tax exemptions.

They sound like a set of outrageous impositions, an assertion of FIFA’s sovereignty over democratic governments. Again: local and state authorities lavish public funds and tax breaks on professional sports and cite pie-in-the-sky economic benefits. Multi-billion dollar companies that pay a lower tax rate than the average individual. What’s more American?

NFL stadiums with problematic grounds such as the LA and Dallas venues will need to be modified and grass laid on artificial turf, but a clear advantage over recent World Cups that will make 2026 more profitable and less wasted is that no stadium needed to be built or rebuilt in any significant way for the tournament, avoiding legacy scandals such as the $550 million stadium in Brazil that became a bus parking lot.

And not everything about the biggest sporting event on the planet can be quantified and monetized. “This part of the world doesn’t realize what’s going to happen here in 2026. These three countries will be upside down and then turned upside down again,” Infantino told reporters. “The world will invade Canada, Mexico and the United States. And they will be invaded by a great wave of joy and happiness.

The party kicked off Thursday, in Kansas City, Vancouver, Atlanta, Monterrey and a dozen other cities across the continent.

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