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Could Cincinnati be a host site for 2026 World Cup?

Posted at 7:51 AM, Mar 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-09 18:27:12-05

CINCINNATI — The Queen City is one of 23 cities across the U.S. and Mexico vying to be a host site for the 2026 World Cup.

City leaders met with FIFA on Tuesday afternoon and pitched Paul Brown Stadium — not FC Cincinnati's West End Stadium — as a potential site.

"We have proven that we can bring big crowds to games," Mayor John Cranley said later in a radio appearance on 700 WLW. "And you think bout how great the Reds did with the All Star game, we will roll out the red carpet if we get that."

FC Cincinnati president Jeff Berding said he thinks the city's chances are good.

"This opportunity comes around once in 100 years," he said. "We've never had an opportunity like this, and it's right at our finger tips."

According to Berding, Cincinnati is the most obvious choice in the Midwest for two reasons: Cincinnati is adjacent to other major cities, and the city has a built-in soccer culture. His team's West End Stadium doesn't have the required 60,000 seats to host a World Cup match, but it's proof that Cincinnati has invested in professional soccer and has fans who support it. That's not a given for most U.S. cities.

And, he added, all hopeful cities in the United States are presenting NFL stadiums as locations. They're usually the only American sporting venues big enough.

The 2026 World Cup is expanding to 48 teams and 80 local matches. If selected, Cincinnati could see an economic impact of up to $480 million. Berding compared the payoff to hosting multiple Super Bowls.

“There was an economic study that came out recently that talks about how World Cup was really the only event — because it lasts for weeks, it's not a single game or single weekend, lasts for weeks — that this is the one sporting event that there's no dispute, there's no debate, the economic impact of hosting a World Cup is extraordinarily large," he said.

City leaders will have two interviews with FIFA in the first half of this year, and FIFA officials will visit Cincinnati over the summer to tour Paul Brown Stadium.

A decision is expected from FIFA by the end of 2021.