KANSAS CITY, Mo. — FIFA World Cup organizers and other top soccer officials visited Kansas City on Thursday as part of an official site visit.
Kansas City is one of 17 U.S. cities bidding to host World Cup matches in 2026 when the world's biggest sporting event will be contested across North America.
Part of the bid process is a site visit, where the officials review venues and training facilities, as well as get a feeling for the city.
Kansas City officials leading the World Cup bid conducted a press conference at noon Thursday in the Power & Light District.
All area authorities on sports and government were present at the event, including Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas; Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, Mayor David Alvey; Jackson County Executive Frank White Jr.; Chiefs owner Clark Hunt; Sporting KC owner Frank Illig; KC WoSo owners Chris and Angie Long and Kansas City's Mexican Consul.
Hunt talked about how his family has been involved in U.S. soccer for five decades, since his father, Lamar Hunt, watched the 1966 World Cup and fell in love. Clark Hunt himself has been to 11 of the last 12 World Cups and attended matches in over 60 venues - so he knows a thing or two about what hosting should mean.
"Kansas City has one of the best soccer cultures in the country, in large part because of Sporting KC," Hunt said. "GEHA Field will give fans around the world the chance to cheer on their country in the loudest stadium in the world."
Lamar Hunt was the one who convinced Cliff Illig and others to preserve soccer culture in Kansas City.
Illig said that Hunt was adamant that in order for Kansas City to remain a major league city, we could not lose any of the major league sports franchises.
That led to the rebranding of the Wizards to Sporting KC and to the construction of a new soccer stadium and a vibrant soccer culture.
"We have done our small part in trying to encourage and foster and grow the soccer culture in this region," Illig said. "Frankly, it has not been that hard."
Another thing Illig credited, and FIFA officials said they are impressed with, is the investment in grassroots soccer and the infrastructure to support it from youth to adults.
FIFA Vice President Victor Montagliani said that the officials know Kansas City is a solid option because it would not be the first time the city hosted matches. Montagliani is also the CONCACAF president, and the city hosted Gold Cup matches this past summer.
"When you walk on to the pitch, the team that you are is the team that you have to play," he said about Kansas City, insinuating that the only thing needed is for Kansas City to be itself. "We've hosted the Gold Cup here. My experience here has always been the hospitality has been great, the football has been great, you have the investment in your community."
FIFA Chief Tournaments and Events Officer Colin Smith outlined some of the items the crew is looking at, which include transportation, accommodation, media and broadcast facilities, sustainability and the stadium.
GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium would host the matches, and the site visit will arrive there this afternoon.
Officials will look at how the field can be transformed into a pitch that meets FIFA requirements and a few other details.
While the stadium, the regional access the city provides and the overall workings of the city still hold a lot of weight, Montagliani said that's not all it comes down to.
"The beauty about football is that it's not about your size, it's about the size of your heart," he said.
The city was decked out in blue and adorned with World Cup propaganda to welcome the officials. Area lawmakers also got in on the effort to help bring the event to Kansas City.
A few more cities are slated for site review before the year ends.
Smith said FIFA hopes to have a decision made around the beginning of next year.