KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Her name may not be as familiar as some board members tapped to lead Kansas City’s preparation efforts for the 2026 FIFA World Cup, but Karen Daniel’s leadership and love for the city drew raves.
“Because I’m not as visible, maybe some people don’t know me, but those who do know I love Kansas City,” Daniel said.
Daniel was announced last week as president of the KC2026 Board of Directors. She’s a retired executive with Black & Veatch, a more than 100-year-old engineering firm and the largest engineering firm in Kansas City.
“She’s a fantastic leader and she has the global experience,” Kansas City Current Co-Founder Angie Long said. “We couldn’t be more excited to have her.”
After working as a senior audit manager for KPMG for 11 years, Daniel went to Black & Veatch, where she worked for 26 years, including 18 as the firm’s chief financial officer.
But she was handpicked for the board presidency as much for her community involvement as her professional accomplishments.
During Daniel's tenure as the president of the Kansas City, Missouri, Parks and Recreation Board, she led the $80-million Liberty Memorial restoration at the National World War I Museum and Memorial.
She’s also a past president of the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, receiving the organization’s Athena Leadership Award three years ago, in addition to service with the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, KU Advancement Board, Northwest Missouri State University Foundation, Women’s Employment Network, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, Snap-On Inc. and Commerce Bancshares among other organizations.
“First and foremost, our family — we were taught that family is an extension of the community,” Daniel said. “So, I’ve been working in the community ever since I went to work and had a chance to be on my first board.”
The KC2026 board reads like a Who’s Who list of Kansas City civic, business and philanthropic leaders, but they all have one thing in common — immense respect for Daniel.
“Karen’s somebody who’s been engaged and involved for years,” KCMO Mayor Quinton Lucas said. “When we were looking at how to build out this board and what types of folks we wanted to be on it, we wanted someone who understood Kansas City, who knows Kansas City and its many different communities and, frankly, can bring a new voice to leadership — one that we don’t see all the time. I think Karen hits that in every way possible.”
Lucas said her financial background — she’s a certified public accountant in Missouri — will help ensure wise, prudent and efficient planning and spending around the World Cup effort.
“I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know her through the Kansas City Civic Council,” Kansas City Chiefs Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt, an honorary chair of the KC2026 Board of Directors, said. “She’s obviously been a very well-respected executive in the Kansas City area and has done a lot of things from a philanthropy standpoint, so we’re very lucky to have someone like her who’s willing to dedicate the time — and will be a lot of time to leading this effort.”
Nearly a year ago, when FIFA awarded Kansas City as a host city, Daniel didn’t imagine then pivotal role she’d wind up playing in bringing the tournament to life locally, where organizers expect six to nine matches to be played at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium after FIFA expanded the 2026 World Cup field and number of games.
“I don’t know exactly where I was (for the announcement), but I do know I was incredibly excited for Kansas City,” Daniel said. “We knew then it was a really, really big deal. Did I know I was going to have this opportunity to be part of it? No, because I was working on other boards. But when Kathy (Nelson) called and others, I was like, ‘This is really, really important and I want to be part of it.’”
She acknowledged that Kansas City wouldn't have been ready for such a moment 20 or 30 years ago, but she plans to make certain the City of Fountains is ready three years from now.
“The opportunity with this leadership across our region coupled with how well we’ve done in other sports in bringing the world here, it’s a beautiful time, a special time and we need to be all about getting it done,” Daniel said.
Daniel added that she’s confident she can help organizers stick to FIFA’s strict deadline schedule and meet goals and objectives for hosting in a way that ensures “everybody is proud of the outcome.”
Sporting Kansas City Principal Owner Cliff Illig will serve as an honorary board chair along with Hunt.
Sporting KC President and CEO Jake Reid and Neal Sharma — the CEO of DEG, a digital consulting agency — will serve as vice presidents.
Kathy Nelson, the president and CEO of the Kansas City Sports Commission/Visit KC, will be the board secretary with Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City President CEO Esther George serving as treasurer.
There are 12 at-large board members:
- Kansas City Current Co-Owner Angie Long;
- Hall Family Foundation President Mayra Aguirre;
- Johnson County Board of Commissioners Chair Mike Kelly;
- Missouri Senate Minority Leader Sen. John Rizzo;
- Mayor Quinton Lucas’ Chief of Staff Morgan Said;
- Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, County Administrator David Johnston;
- Chiefs Executive Vice President for Operations and Events Matt Kenny;
- KCMO City Manager Brian Platt;
- Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Joe Reardon;
- Jackson County Sports Complex Authority Executive Director Jim Rowland;
- Kansas Senate Minority Leader Sen. Dinah Sykes;
- Jackson County Executive Frank White Jr.
“That’s really an all-star board, and they’re going to help us really put Kansas City’s best foot forward when we do have the games in 2026,” Hunt said.