Kansas City, Sporting KC continue quest to host 2026 World Cup games


Sporting players huddle in celebration of a goal in the 2-0 win over Philadelphia Union Sunday at Children’s Mercy Park. Photo by Jason Brown/Managing Editor

Written by Jason Brown

KANSAS CITY, KANSAS – Forty-eight hours before Sporting KC made its MLS home debut Sunday at Children’s Mercy Park, CEO and President Jake Reid discussed bringing the 2026 FIFA World Cup games to Arrowhead Stadium.
The United States was selected along with Canada and Mexico to host the 2026 World Cup in June 2018, marking the first World Cup in North America since 1994. Kansas City is among a litany of American cities vying for the opportunity to host World Cup matches. Both sides of the state line have combined resources to accommodate FIFA’s requirements for travel and lodging.
“In the first stage of the bid, we told the story of two cities and two states coming together to support Kansas City’s bid,” said David Ficklin, executive director of the Kansas City 2026 World Cup bid committee.”
Kansas City has evolved into a hub for soccer in the Midwest thanks in part to a number of events, including Sporting’s rebrand from the Wizards in 2010, Graham Zusi and Matt Besler’s emergence in the 2014 World Cup and the new U.S. Soccer facility at Pinnacle, just a short drive from Children’s Mercy Park.
“We’ve really changed the focus in the final stages of the bid from ‘Bring the World Cup to Kansas City,’ to ‘Bring the World Cup to the Midwest,’” Ficklin said. “There are 50 million Americans within a one day drive (of Kansas City) and that’s almost 500,000 new soccer players that we have a chance to inspire and introduce the game to.”
Zusi said he thinks Kansas City would be a good host because of how the city supported the U.S. men’s team in 2014.
“I remember when we were down in Brazil seeing videos of fan reactions, watch parties and a lot of them were right here in Kansas City,” Zusi said. “They were just fantastic. The commitment, the excitement was incredible.”
Zusi said the support for soccer in Kansas City is among the best in the country.
“I think they’d be very wise to make us a host city,” he said. “The excitement for soccer here is, for me, unmatched throughout the country.”
Peter Vermes, Sporting head coach and operations manager, said Kansas City has earned the right to host World Cup games.
“It would be wrong for it to not be here,” he said. “The facilities, the groundswell support for the game, we have everything. The only thing we’re not is a big city.”
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In order for Kansas City to even be considered as a host city, renovations will need to be made at Arrowhead Stadium, home of the Chiefs in the National Football League. Arrowhead is among the five highest capacity stadiums being considered in the process with space for 76,416 spectators. The renovations required would create more field space so the venue meets the dimensions for an international pitch.
“FIFA requires a 68-meter wide by 105-meter long pitch and then they want another 10 meters beyond the pitch to field the ball,” Ficklin said. “Which you have to put into existing stadiums in the United States that were built for the NFL, it just doesn’t really work. But we do need to find the space.”
Ficklin said the solution might be permanently altering Arrowhead in order to host such important games there.
“What this means architecturally, is that we have to cut out the corners of Arrowhead,” he said. “There’s been a lot of talk about how that would affect future Chiefs games, but the idea is to cut out the corners and then be able to infill them. At the end of the day, the bowl is the same when you go to a football game and a legacy that Arrowhead can host international soccer games in the future.”
In addition to the Arrowhead renovations, Kansas City will need to significantly improve its public transportation in order to host games. Reid said the investment to bring the transportation up to par would be in the millions, but the parking lots at the Truman Sports Complex provided a slight advantage.
“You’ve got to have free transportation from the city center to the stadium,” he said. “We’re talking about multiple matches of 75,000 people. Certainly, the parking out there is fantastic and I think that’s actually a big advantage for the bid.”
Ficklin said the committee is advancing the planning so that the necessary changes would be complete three years out from the World Cup. He said that is the main concern as they don’t anticipate having any trouble filling seats.
“Every single game of the World Cup in 2026 will sell out regardless of the host city,” he said. “So, we won’t have to worry as a host city about the tactics of getting people in the stadium. It gives us this great advantage of being able to throw our energy toward using the World Cup to grow the game and get the game to kids who have not experienced it.”