Does Cincinnati have a chance at landing World Cup matches in 2026?

Travel restrictions could damage United States' hopes of hosting a World Cup
Posted at 12:02 AM, Oct 22, 2021

CINCINNATI — A delegation of 24 FIFA officials was in Cincinnati Friday as the city made its bid for its share of the 2026 World Cup.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear and Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted met with U.S. and international soccer officials, touring Paul Brown Stadium, where any games would be played, and training facilities in the area as the city vies to host some of the matches in the global men's soccer championship.

Organizers of the bid said hosting a game could bring global attention to Cincinnati and have a big impact on the local economy — but just how much revenue could it bring?

What is the economic impact of Cincinnati hosting a World Cup game?

Brendon Cull with the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce said it could be "as much as $480 million."

The 2026 World Cup will be the biggest ever with the tournament expanding from 32 to 48 teams. The last time the U.S. hosted a World Cup match was in 1994.

"They had more than 3 million fans," Cull said. "Tenants across each match, generally, is about 70,000 people, but it's not just the 70,000 people who go to the matches — it's people who come downtown to watch. I mean, it is a spectacle."

FIFA delegates visit Cincinnati for World Cup pitch

Cull said the event would not only impact downtown Cincinnati, but the surrounding areas, too.

"It will be so much fun for people all over the entire region, and it's not just Cincinnati, it's Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana all coming together to really maximize this," Cull said.

Research also shows hosting the World Cup is expensive. A study by Clemson University showed some past hosts put more money in than they received, though some of those areas had to build infrastructure to accommodate. Officials said Cincinnati is already equipped to host.

"This is a world class city already with so much great infrastructure," Cull said. "We know how to do this. We hosted the All Star Game not too long ago. We know how to do this really well."

Jeff Berding, President at FC Cincinnati, said they have already made investments in Paul Brown Stadium. The stadium's seating capacity is more than 60,000 — making the city's bid strong – and it was also designed to transition to a soccer field from a football field with ease by tucking back the corners.

"The big investments have already been made," Berding said. "The corporate community is coming in big time — the significant public investments have already been made."

How would Paul Brown Stadium transform for a World Cup game?

Cull said the World Cup could also bring about 40,000 jobs to the area.

"Literally billions of people [are] watching the World Cup, and to have that sense, that beautiful Cincinnati skyline on TVs all over the world, is a generational impact," Cull said.

But the goal is no gimme for Cincinnati. They are competing against regional cities like Kansas City and Nashville, and other big cities in the middle of the U.S. like Denver, which has bigger venues and more hotels.

The city has promised touring FIFA reps that there will be 200,000 hotel rooms available for regional and international fans.

As for the number of games Cincinnat is hoping for — they're vying for the early rounds of the tournament similar to the first two rounds of NCAA March Madness, when four teams in a group play each other once. The top two teams advance to the knockout stages.

Soccers fans hope Cincinnati has shot as World Cup host

Cincy tried and failed to get the 2012 Olympics, but lessons learned from that helped land the World Choir Games.

From here, FIFA will go to similar tours of Houston and Dallas, then Seattle early next month. Cincinnati has already made one cut of decisions, but the final decision on host cities is expected early next year.

Jeff Berding says he believes the city will get the nod.

"Because we're the soccer capital of the country at this point," Berding said.