CINCINNATI — The delegation tasked with sizing up potential host cities for the 2026 FIFA World Cup is on its way to Dallas after a busy Friday looking into what Cincinnati has to offer.
Delegates split into four groups visited the Banks, Paul Brown Stadium and training facilities, as well as met with business and political leaders to decide if Cincinnati is the right place to host World Cup games. Officials must ensure facilities meet the goals of a world-class venue, meaning infrastructure plays a big role in their decision. Still, there is more than brick and mortar that goes into the decision. When picking host cities, delegates are also looking at the community.
"What they're so focused on and concerned about is the spirit of the city...the spirit of this region," said Julie Calvert with Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau. "What's important to them is the authenticity, the spirit of the people here."
Despite the rain, soccer fans turned out — showing off their authenticity and pride in Cincinnati in hopes of seeing the world's greatest players in five years. The passion did not go unnoticed, with Concacaf President Victor Montagliani calling the city "an authentic bunch."
"I love Cincinnati, and for them to get a chance to have such a big, you know, world spotlight on them would be amazing, and I think they can do great things with it," fan Maria Vassanelli said.
Organizers of the bid said the excitement would not only apply to Cincinnati, but surrounding areas. The city has regional partnerships with Cleveland, Columbus, Louisville and other cities to ensure fan experience throughout the region — exciting fans throughout the Tri-State.
"This is an exciting possibility for not only Cincinnati, but for the whole showcase of Northern Kentucky, Indiana. People will come down from all over," fan Jeffery Fromen said. "Three states right together, they have a lot to offer."
Delegates are also thinking about the future of soccer — and Cincinnati brought plenty of young fans to give a look into the area's fanbase.
"Ultimately, the World Cup is delivered by people. That's what's been great to see here today is how everyone has pulled together across the Tri-States and to want to host the World Cup here," said Colin Smith, FIFA's chief competitions and events officer. "The presentation we received today was excellent."
If things go Cincinnati's way, officials said, the World Cup could bring up to $480 million to the Tri-State. There are still 17 other U.S. cities in the running — and organizers believe the city has a great chance of hosting a group stage. A decision should be made by March 2022.
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Editor's note: WCPO 9 is a media sponsor of the group behind the bid Cincinnati Soccer City USA. Our coverage of the bid is not influenced by the sponsorship and our editorial decisions and reporting are independent.