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World Cup 2026: Kansas City must address these areas to possibly host games

Posted at 10:37 PM, Mar 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-08 23:37:02-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — While Kansas City is in the running to possibly host 2026 FIFA World Cup games, plenty of work remains to be done to attract the tournament to the metro area.

On Friday, the newly formed KC 2026 Bid Executive Committee kicked off the final phase of bidding by announcing the members who will make up the team of planners.

Ten American cities will host games for the tournament, with Kansas City one of 17 nominees to possibly do so.

The metro boasts a strong soccer community and athletic facilities, however, the FIFA Bid Evaluation Report released last summer offered clues to the areas Kansas City must focus on to improve its chances of landing the tournament.

While ratings for Arrowhead Stadium were around average, public transportation from the city center to the facility was described as "insufficient."

Ratings for accommodations saw Kansas City rank second-to-last among the 23 North American cities in the running to host games.

The city also received poor transport ratings, which analyzed intercity connectivity and host city mobility.

Kansas City tied for the second-lowest score with Edmonton, with only Guadalajara finishing with a lower rating.

With the official host cities expected to be announced late next year, a leading event planner in Kansas City said organizers must focus on key areas moving forward.

“We have the stadiums. We have the arenas. We have top-notch facilities. We need that next level,” O’Neill Events & Marketing President and CEO Keli O’Neill Wenzel said. “I’m sure they’re wooing them and doing a great job on that but we got to look at the actual infrastructures and the stadium.”

Wenzel’s company helped organize the Royals' World Series parade and the MLB All-Star Game at Kauffman Stadium in 2012.

The group also runs the annual Boulevardia festival.

While Kansas City has some challenges against other big cities, Wenzel said the metro also brings some strengths to the table.

“One thing that is always going to be difficult on these types of things are the people that have subways,” she said. “The fact that we have a huge following in soccer, not just professionally but all the way down to the kids, is big.”

Moving forward, Wenzel said projects like the new Kansas City International Airport terminal and Loews Convention Center Hotel would play a big role in attracting the World Cup.

“That’s the reason why we’re building the convention hotel is for the pure reason to be able to even bid on projects like this,” she said. “All of those big things, they’re quickly looking at your airports and your hotel capabilities.”

As the city waits to learn its World Cup fate, excitement continues to grow.

On Friday, former Kansas City Comets player and coach Jim Schwab said hosting the tournament would be a historic achievement for the area.

“Even a Super Bowl, it would be bigger than that,” he said. “If Kansas City could get exposed to that, it would be one of the biggest sporting events ever to come in to Kansas City.”

While Kansas City must address certain areas to attract the tournament, Schwab believed the metro could rise above the competition.

“I think Kansas City can do it,” he said. “I think we’d be a great host city for the World Cup.”