July 23, 2018
The 2018 World Cup concluded last Sunday with France’s “golden generation” hoisting the trophy for the second time in the tournaments history. I, for one, already miss the World Cup. Although the United States men’s national team failed to qualify for the first time in my lifetime, I found the tournament to be wildly entertaining and was captivated from the opening kick-off. Many soccer fans experiencing withdrawals have already turned their attention to the controversial 2022 World Cup set in Qatar, which is projected to cost the small nation of 2.57 million people $220 billion. Despite Qatar’s endless stream of compelling storylines, I would rather focus on the potential of the 2026 World Cup which FIFA just awarded to a conglomerate consisting of Canada, Mexico, and the United States.
The World Cup is a globally recognized event that allows for the host nation(s) to parade itself before the rest of the world while also creating an economic boom if properly executed. In tournaments past, countries have sunk billions of dollars into building lavish stadiums that will maybe host ten events over the course of their lifetime. Fortunately, the United States has the foundation in place to comfortably accommodate the tournament. When the U.S. hosted the competition in 1994 only $5 million was collectively spent on infrastructure. In comparison, Brazil spent $3.6 billion to build its freshly abandoned stadiums while Russia spent an astonishing $14 billion on their arenas. With the ability to bypass billions of dollars of debt, the U.S will be free to revel in the considerable profit yielded by the five-week spectacle. According to the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), hosting the most anticipated sporting event in the world could generate more than $5 billion in economic activity. About $1 billion of this would be allotted toward financing the 40,000+ jobs necessary to prepare for and oversee the event, while the rest would cycle through the economy as tourism and spectator spending will serve as catalysts for local economies.
Regionally, there are 23 cities between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada vying for the privilege of hosting matches. 17 cities are from the U.S., with three each from Canada and Mexico. The final decision will consist of 16 cities and the United States was awarded 60 of the 80 matches. With the state-of-the-art Mercedes-Benz stadium situated in downtown, Atlanta is primed to be one of the premier locations for the tournament. The recent success of hosting the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship and the sellout crowds supporting Atlanta United demonstrate how well the city can host popular sporting events. Moreover, many “experts” have pegged Mercedes-Benz as an ideal venue. BCG’s study also revealed that host cities could see up to $620 million in revenue depending on how many matches they accommodate.
The 2026 World Cup is set to be the largest sporting event in history. The field is expanding from 32 to 48 teams, and the resulting cash flow will be unprecedented as the additional teams will create more than $1 billion in ticket sales, sponsors, and TV revenue. It will be an extended Super Bowl-esque commercial event, with the United States set to enjoy most of the benefits. Not to mention the best part – a host nation is already guaranteed a spot.