KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City will welcome the world to town in four years.
It has been selected to host matches in the 2026 FIFA World Cup, bringing one of the most-viewed sporting events on the planet to the City of Fountains.
A total of 16 North American cities, including 11 U.S. cities, were among those chosen as host sites for the United bid.
The games in Kansas City will be played on GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium.
FIFA, the world organizing body for soccer, made the announcement Thursday in New York City.
The announcement ends KC 2026’s seven-year effort to bring the World Cup to Kansas City on a high note.
It's unclear how many matches will be played in Kansas City, but it is expected at least five will be staged at Arrowhead.
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who is part-owner of Sporting Kansas City, was chosen as the celebrity to congratulate Kansas City on its selection.
The U.S. made a joint bid along with Canada and Mexico to host the 2026 tournament, which was awarded to the three North American countries over a bid from Morocco in 2018.
It will be the first World Cup hosted by more than two countries and only the second hosted by multiple countries, joining the 2002 event hosted by Japan and South Korea.
Three Mexican cities — Guadalajara, Mexico City and Monterrey — and three Canadian cities — Edmonton, Toronto and Vancouver — put in bids to host in their respective nations.
Edmonton was the only non-U.S. city to bid that was not awarded matches.
There were 16 U.S. cities — Atlanta, Boston, Cincinnati, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, New York/New Jersey, Orlando, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington D.C./Baltimore — that bid to host matches.
Cincinnati, Denver, Nashville, Orlando and Washington D.C/Baltimore were not selected to host matches.
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The World Cup, which draws billions of viewers every four years, will expand to 48 teams, including 32 that advance to the knockout stage, in 2026.
There will be a record 79 matches played during the 2026 World Cup.
A University of Tennessee study projected a $700 million economic impact for Nashville if it was awarded World Cup matches. There is no similar study specific to Kansas City, but Nashville is considered a comparable market.
This year’s World Cup is slated for Nov. 21 to Dec. 18 in Qatar. The U.S. Men’s National Team was drawn into Group B with England, Iran and Wales.
The U.S. squad opens Nov. 21 against Wales, faces England on Nov. 25 and wraps up group play Nov. 29 against Iran. All three games kick off at 1 p.m. Central time.
The knockout rounds begin Dec. 3.
FIFA said stadiums were a critical component of the bid, but also noted “key aspects such as sustainability, human rights, legacy, general infrastructure and financial impact” among other determining factors.
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Infrastructure was viewed as a strength and a weakness for Kansas City.
Its soccer-specific inventory includes the Compass Minerals National Performance Center, a state-of-the-art facility that is expected to serve as a home base for one or more teams during the World Cup, along with Children’s Mercy Park, home of Sporting Kansas City and the Kansas City Current.
Arrowhead, the house that Lamar Hunt built, was an asset as well, but questions lingered about other aspects of the city’s infrastructure, including mass transportation and hotel inventory.
But there was no doubting the city’s passionate grassroots soccer culture, including Sporting KC’s revitalization, nor the city’s connection to Hunt.
The U.S. Open Cup has borne late Chiefs founder Lamar Hunt’s name since 1999 and he was one of the co-founders of Major League Soccer, which FIFA mandated when it awarded the U.S. its first World Cup in 1994.
Hunt was the first owner of the Sporting KC franchise, which was originally known as the Kansas City Wiz. The family sold the team in 2006.
Current Chiefs Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt, one of Lamar Hunt's sons, said his father's love of soccer started when he watched the 1966 World Cup final between England and West Germany.
"He decided right then and there that he wanted to bring the sport of soccer to America," Clark Hunt said. "... I know that he would be absolutely thrilled by today's announcement."
The Hunt family also has owned FC Dallas since its inception as a founding MLS team and owned the Columbus Crew until 2013.
Kansas City has hosted USMNT games, including World Cup qualifiers, as well as international exhibitions and CONCACAF Gold Cup matches, but it did not host World Cup games in 1994 — the only year in which the U.S. hosted the men’s World Cup.
It also did not host the 1999 or 2003 Women’s World Cup, both of which were staged in the U.S.
A new single-terminal Kansas City International Airport is slated to open next year when Kansas City also will host the 2023 NFL Draft.