The men’s 2022 FIFA World Cup, ongoing through Dec. 18 in the nation of Qatar, offers a taste of what fans closer to home will experience in the next worldwide soccer tournament in 2026.
Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium, the 77,000-seat home field of the Chiefs football team, will host up to seven matches in the 2026 games. The second largest metro city in Missouri, with a population of 2.2 million, is the only Midwestern site in the successful United 2026 bid for the games by the United States, Canada and Mexico. The countries are partnering to provide 16 sites for the 80-game tournament.
The U.S. will host 60 of the 80 matches, all in NFL stadiums, with the other venues in Atlanta; Boston; Dallas; East Rutherford, New Jersey; Houston; Los Angeles; Miami; Philadelphia; Santa Clara, California; and Seattle.
Speaking earlier this month at the Cooper Park and Sports Complex turf renovation ceremony, Missouri Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe stressed the significance of the games for Missouri – and even for Springfield, 166 miles to its south.
“The World Cup in 2026 will be 45 days, and it will be like having five or six Super Bowls back to back,” Kehoe said. “The ripple effect from the World Cup is estimated to be a 200-mile radius.”
Kehoe said the global focus on Missouri and the Midwest will result in an “unbelievable” overflow from World Cup activity, starting almost immediately.
Locally, attorney Joe Passanise is representing Springfield as a member of the state’s World Cup organizing team, Kehoe said. Passanise did not respond to a request for an interview by press time.
The United 2026 bid was awarded in June, with the group of three North American countries beating out Morocco for the next World Cup tournament.
The men’s World Cup competition began in 1930, but the U.S. has hosted it only once before, at nine sites nationwide, culminating in a final match at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, in 1994.
The women’s World Cup was held in the U.S. twice, back to back in 1999 and 2003. The men’s 2026 World Cup will be the first for the Show-Me State.
Kehoe told Springfield Business Journal fans from 80 nations will travel to support their teams.
“When these nations come and play, it is absolutely unbelievable what their following is,” he said.
Projections call for at least 6.8 million people to visit each of the host cities. That means hotels and restaurants as far from the venue as Springfield, Lake of the Ozarks and Columbia may experience some of the draw.
A study by the Boston Consulting Group, conducted in advance of the bid, projected each city would experience up to $620 million in incremental economic activity, translating to a net benefit of up to $480 million per city after accounting for potential public costs. That study was based on the prospect of only 64 matches, rather than the 80 planned in the expanded format being introduced in 2026.
“It’s amazing what it will do,” Kehoe said. “It will be the biggest thing ever to hit Missouri.”
Kehoe said Kansas City was chosen in part for its reliable public transportation system – something the international community expects – and for its top-notch football stadium.
“It was a very competitive process,” he said. “I can’t tell you how pleased we are.”
Kehoe said Missouri cities should be ready for a piece of the action.
“From a tourist standpoint, you can’t buy the kind of exposure we’re going to get across the globe,” he said. “It’s impossible to say, ‘I want to market Missouri’s tourism industry and achieve those goals.’ You can’t do it unless you have an event like this.”
Matt Morrow, president and CEO of the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, said Springfield is likely to benefit as the site of the Bass Pro Shops flagship store and Johnny Morris’ Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium, which he characterized as the top tourist attractions in the state.
“My hope is that there will be just an increased excitement around the sport,” he said, noting the World Cup in the U.S. likely will lead to more young people trying the sport.
Springfield is home of the newly opened Betty & Bobby Allison Sports Town, with 12 outdoor soccer fields, and the Cooper Park and Sports Complex/Lake Country Soccer complex, with 20 outdoor and two indoor fields.
“We’re positioned pretty well in the Springfield area with youth sports and our investments around soccer,” Morrow said. “That could position us to take advantage of that growing interest over the next several years.”
Kehoe echoed those sentiments.
“When you have an event like this come to the state of Missouri, it really raises the awareness level of what soccer is all about,” he said. “All ages, including young kids, will be inspired to play the sport of soccer.”
He added that the U.S. is a great soccer country and Missouri is a great soccer state, though their fandom and participation are not at the level of the international community. The World Cup is expected to change that.
“It’s going to be fun to watch,” he said.
He added that amateur games will happen all around the big event in 2026 for both youth and adult competitors.
“They’ll be looking for soccer venues to host those on,” he said.
World Cup by the numbers
In preparing the United 2026 bid, U.S. Soccer commissioned the BCG study. The study projected a 48-game tournament would generate $5 billion in short-term economic activity among the three North American nations, including supporting 40,000 jobs and $1 billion in incremental worker earnings.
By comparison, the economic impact of a Super Bowl game ranges $300 million-$500 million, BCG reported.
In a 2018 FIFA decision that came out after the study was conducted, the current 48-team, 64-game format was increased to an 80-game tournament to span 34 days – increasing the financial impact of the tourney.
The United 2026 bid was for the use of existing sports venues, rather than building new ones, boosting the projected economic benefit, according to U.S. Soccer.
An Ipsos survey in 2017 in preparation for the bid found 77% of residents supported hosting the tournament.
Mercy Springfield Communities relocated a clinic; San Clemente, California-based law firm Gilson Daub Inc. expanded to the Springfield market; and a second video gaming center for Contender eSports Springfield LLC opened in the Queen City.