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Cincinnati won't host 2026 World Cup matches

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United Bid
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An artist rendering of what Paul Brown Stadium might look like as a World Cup host site.

Cincinnati will not be a host city for the 2026 World Cup. FIFA, international soccer's governing body, Thursday announced the 16 cities in the USA, Canada and Mexico it's selected as venues for the world's largest sporting event. The three North American countries are jointly hosting the games in 2026.

Selected cities include: Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Guadalajara, Kansas City, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, Monterrey, Mexico City, Boston, Toronto, Philadelphia, Miami, and New York/New Jersey.

During a news conference after the announcement, FIFA executives said they'll "be engaging with all the cities that were not selected" for things like Fan Fests or related cultural events. So Cincinnati could still see some World Cup-related activity.

"While our efforts fell short, we again demonstrated the power of our region uniting behind big ideas,” said Gary Lindgren, president of the Cincinnati Business Committee and Cincinnati Regional Business Committee. "The collaborative leadership and can-do spirit displayed during this bid effort will serve our community well moving forward."

"It was an honor to be in the running for the FIFA World Cup 2026, and the spotlight on Cincinnati as a potential host city provided a platform to show all that Cincinnati has to offer to an international audience," added Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine in a statement.

Reaction from soccer fans at The Pitch, a bar near TQL Stadium, was resigned. Danny Molloy says transportation and infrastructure may have been what knocked Cincinnati out of the running.

"I'm not sure that, say, the TANK buses would be enough to get folks from CVG to Downtown. I'm not sure that, say, extending the streetcar to CVG is a viable option but some kind of additional people mover may have made a difference. I think you look at New York in particular, those subways and those other trains and those other options you have can really get you anywhere you need to go in the city."

Mary Beth Knight still plans to go to matches in other cities.

"We have dear friends in Vancouver. I think the World Cup there makes for a great opportunity and reason to go there if you can get tickets and also in Kansas City. It is something that I'm interested in having my children and myself experience and we hope to do that," she said.

A recent report from the UC Economics Center suggested the combined economic impact if Cincinnati were to host matches would have been nearly $450 million.

The study also estimated hosting would generate about $20 million in tax revenue for state and local governments and $15.4 million in sales tax revenue.

A delegation from FIFA and U.S. Soccer visited Cincinnati Friday, Oct. 22, to vet the city as a possible host site. The group toured Paul Brown Stadium and possible training and Fan Fest locations.

If selected, Paul Brown Stadium would have required some updates.

Total modifications and upgrades FIFA would have required added up to $40 million to $45 million. According to County Administrator Jeff 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 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 made clear the county was willing to make requested updates as far as how they fit into the county's improvement plan.

The largest financial outlays would have been 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 was about $4 million and the cost to remove — and reinstall — the corner seating was about $6 million. County Administrator Jeff Aluotto said the seat removals would not affect the Bengals competition season.

Reaction from other Tri-State officials

"Even though our 2026 Cincy Local Organizing Committee, our community and our partners put together a flawless bid package, Cincinnati fell short in its efforts to become a host city for FIFA World Cup 2026," said Jeff Berding, co-CEO of FC Cincinnati & 2026 Cincy Local Organizing Executive Committee. "I want to personally thank this community, our county and city government officials along with our corporate and civic leaders for supporting us in our efforts to bring the World Cup to Cincinnati. Even though this bid may not have been successful, I feel the process has set us up for future successful bids that will enhance our city and raise our international profile. We showed that the new Cincinnati is an ambitious City that compete for world class events, so this isn’t the end of this process - it's just the beginning of more to come. So stay tuned, and don’t sleep on Cincinnati."

"We took the field as a team, played our hearts out, and came up a bit short," said Commission President Stephanie Summerow Dumas. "We are down but not out. The takeaway from this experience is that we work well as a team with all of our public and private partners, and we are ready to compete for the next opportunity."

"We came together and pulled off a pretty amazing bid for the world’s largest sporting event," said Commissioner Denise Driehaus. "The collaborative spirit shown in this process means good things are ahead for our region."

"I could not be more proud of the city of Cincinnati, our community partners and our fans for supporting this bid to be a host city for FIFA World Cup 2026," said Mayor Aftab Pureval. "We showed the world what Cincinnati is, and is capable of being in the future. We can’t wait for the next opportunity that will showcase our community to an international audience."

"While today, FIFA decided not to select our world class county to host the World Cup in 2026, we will continue to promote our city and county to bring tourism attractions that will have an economic impact but with minimum risk and financial burden on the Hamilton County taxpayers during these uncertain economic times," Hamilton County Commission Vice President Alicia Reece.

This story has been updated.

Tana Weingartner earned a bachelor's degree in communication from the University of Cincinnati and a master's degree in mass communication from Miami University. Prior to joining Cincinnati Public Radio, she served as news and public affairs producer with WMUB-FM. Ms. Weingartner has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including several Best Reporter awards from the Associated Press and the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and a regional Murrow Award. She enjoys snow skiing, soccer and dogs.
Cory Sharber attended Murray State University majoring in journalism and political science and comes to Cincinnati Public Radio from NPR Member station WKMS.