FIFA World Cup Hosts Include Surprising 'Soccer Capital' Kansas City

FIFA, the governing body of world soccer, announced the host cities for the 2026 World Cup on Thursday, with 11 U.S. cities including underdog candidate Kansas City making the cut.

The 2026 edition of the men's international soccer tournament, the world's biggest sporting event, will be co-hosted by the U.S., Mexico and Canada in a total of 16 cities. Five cities in Mexico and Canada will host a total of 20 games, while the bulk of the tournament will take place in the U.S.—where 11 cities will host 60 games, including the final.

FIFA announced the host city selection in three regions: West, Central and East. Kansas City, the self-proclaimed "Soccer Capital of America," beat out candidates like Denver and Edmonton, Canada, in the Central region. Officials for Kansas City and the Major League Soccer (MLS) club Sporting KC celebrated the successful conclusion of an intense lobbying campaign.

"The World Cup will bring jobs to our residents, will generate hundreds of millions of dollars for our region, and will illustrate on a global stage what we've known for some time: Kansas City is the soccer capital of America," Quinton Lucas, mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, said in a statement. "I can't wait to welcome the world to Kansas City."

Fifa World Cup Host Cities U.S. 2026
Host cities for the 2026 FIFA World Cup were announced Thursday, including self-proclaimed "soccer capital of America," Kansas City. A FIFA World Cup winner's trophy is pictured on display in New York City on June 16, 2022. YUKI IWAMURA/AFP/Getty

"The World Cup will bring unprecedented tourism and economic activity to our community and will provide an opportunity to showcase our city on a global stage," said Sporting KC owner Cliff Illig. "We are excited for Kansas City to proudly welcome the world for the 2026 FIFA World Cup."

Canadian soccer commentator Gareth Wheeler tweeted that the "only real surprise of the host cities was Kansas City," which he described as "a smaller market, but one with very good soccer support." Wheeler lamented that Edmonton was not selected, surmising that "geography probably worked against" the city.

James Wagner of The New York Times also described the selection of Kansas City as "a surprise." Others argued that the selection was not surprising for those who had been "paying attention" to soccer, noting that the city already hosts a popular MLS team.

Kansas City, Missouri, announced plans in October 2021 to construct a riverfront arena for the National Women's Soccer League, according to The Kansas City Star, making it the first soccer stadium in the U.S. built for a women's team. The arena is scheduled to open in 2024.

However, the FIFA World Cup matches are to be held at Arrowhead Stadium, where National Football League team the Chiefs play home games.

In addition to Kansas City, candidate cities that were selected to host the World Cup and designated as being in the Central region by FIFA included Houston, Dallas and Atlanta, as well as Monterrey and Mexico City, Mexico.

Host cities selected in the Eastern region included Boston, Miami, New York/New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Toronto, Canada. In the Western region, Seattle, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Bay Area made the cut alongside Vancouver, Canada, and Guadalajara, Mexico.

The field of candidate cities originally included 34 cities in the U.S., three in Mexico and seven in Canada. Before the final selection was made, the field was eventually narrowed down to 17 U.S. cities and three cities each in Canada and Mexico.

In addition to Denver and Edmonton, final candidate cities that missed out on hosting included Nashville, Orlando, Cincinnati and a joint bid from Washington, D.C., and Baltimore.

The next edition of the men's World Cup is set to kick off in Qatar this November. The U.S. previously hosted the 1994 edition of the tournament, while Mexico hosted the 1970 and 1986 editions. Canada will host the tournament for the first time in 2026.

Although the World Cup is typically hosted by a single country, the 2026 edition will not be the first with multiple host countries, as Japan and South Korea jointly hosted the tournament in 2002. However, the 2026 tournament will be the first to include an expanded field of 48 participating countries, up from a current total of 32.

Newsweek reached out to FIFA for comment.