Will Cincinnati host the World Cup? We find out Thursday
More than five years of planning comes down to this: on Thursday FIFA, international soccer's governing body, announces which cities will be home to the 2026 World Cup. Will Cincinnati be among them?
The USA is jointly hosting the world's biggest sporting event with Mexico and Canada. Cincinnati is one of 16 cities in the running to be a U.S. host location. Ten are expected to be selected. Overall, 22 cities are vying for 16 slots to be announced Thursday: 10 in the United States, and three each in Canada and Mexico.
The Canadian and Mexican sites are already known as only three cities in each country are in contention: Edmonton, Toronto and Vancouver in Canada; and Guadalajara, Monterrey and Mexico City in Mexico.
Other U.S. cities in the running are: Atlanta, Baltimore/Washington, D.C., Boston, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, New York/New Jersey, Orlando, Philadelphia, San Francisco Bay Area, and Seattle.
FIFA's announcement event begins at 5 p.m. ET. The local organizing committee is hosting a watch party at The Pitch, a bar near TQL Stadium, that begins at 4 p.m.
The delegation toured Paul Brown Stadium and possible training and Fan Fest locations. Games in Cincinnati would be held at the American football stadium, which forecasts a soccer capacity of 60,294, rather than the much smaller TQL Stadium.
The Cincinnati region would see a big economic impact if selected, according to a study by the UC Economics Center commissioned by the 2026 Cincy Local Organizing Committee and released last month.
The study suggests the combined economic impact would be nearly $450 million, including about 3,000 jobs for the 15-county, Tri-State area. It also estimates hosting would generate about $20 million in tax revenue for state and local governments and $15.4 million in sales tax revenue.
"Hosting the 2026 FIFA World Cup would be equivalent to hosting 10 Super Bowls and would be another billion-dollar marketing campaign for our city and region," said Julie Calvert, president and CEO of Visit Cincy (formerly the Cincinnati USA Convention and Visitors Bureau) in a statement. "The tens of thousands of visitors to our region coupled with the global TV audience would be another opportunity to showcase our region to the world."
Prepping Paul Brown Stadium
If selected, Paul Brown Stadium will require some updates. Hamilton County commissioners in June approved signing a contract with FIFA committing to the work. That Stadium Authority Agreement names the stadium authority (basically the county) and the host city committee as responsible for upgrades to Paul Brown Stadium.
The largest financial outlays include installing a grass pitch or field, and removing the corner seating areas at Paul Brown Stadium to provide for a soccer-size playing field. The cost for the field is about $4 million and the cost to remove — and reinstall — the corner seating is about $6 million. County Administrator Jeff Aluotto says the seat removals would not affect the Bengals competition season.
Total modifications and upgrades requested by FIFA add up to $40 million to $45 million. According to Aluotto, many of those items — such as a ticketing systems, WiFi, and video screen upgrades — are either already complete or are scheduled as part of the county's capital improvement plan (CIP) for the stadium. The pitch and stadium seating items are the two projects not in the county's CIP for Paul Brown Stadium.
The county sets aside $5 million each year for upgrades in the improvement plan. Aluotto says as part of the county's discussions with FIFA, it has made clear the county is willing to make requested updates as far as how they fit into the county's improvement plan.
For anything FIFA might request beyond that plan, Aluotto says the goal would be to ask an as-yet-to-be-formed host city board to find funding through private or philanthropic donations. The current local hosting committee has said it aims to raise $35 million to $50 million in donations to cover a slew of other costs surrounding being a host city.