U.S. cities and states with tax breaks and millions of dollars in public and private investment lined up for a chance to host the 2026 soccer World Cup, due to be announced Thursday.
The prize is a share of what FIFA expects to be more than $5 billion in short-term economic activity resulting from the tournament across North America.
Hoping to reach a deal, state representatives and city leaders are lowering sales taxes on tickets and pumping millions of dollars into refurbishing stadiums.
Missouri is among a handful of states that have proactively passed a bill to exempt FIFA tickets from sales tax. Kansas City Democratic Mon. John Rizzo said he expects revenue generated from Kansas City’s hosting of the event to “make up” for any losses in ticket sales taxes.
“There are a lot of passionate football fans who are hoping we can get this done,” said Rizzo. “I’m an optimist, too.”
17 stadiums in 16 regions are still in contention to be among the 10 to 12 selected from the United States for the tournament, which will be held jointly with Mexico and Canada. The United States will host 60 of the 80 matches under the FIFA plan, including all quarter-final matches, and there has been little doubt about the venues where each of the 10 matches will be played in the other countries.
FIFA’s calls for tax breaks and other funding aid led cities such as Minneapolis, Chicago, and Glendale, Arizona, to withdraw from the race in 2018.
Lawmakers and city officials elsewhere appear more willing to compromise.
In May, the Republican governors of Georgia and Florida signed legislation to eliminate sales taxes on tickets for World Cup soccer matches.
Missouri lawmakers sent similar legislation to Republican Governor Mike Parson last month. He did not indicate whether he would sign it.
“I know there are likely to be some people out there who are like, why would we do that?” Rizzo said. “The reason is that in the past, there were other places that raised sales tax on tickets just before they went on sale.”
Tickets to sporting events are not subject to sales tax in Ohio, although Cincinnati, which is vying to be named a host city, is among the municipalities that are subject to a local admission tax.
Alan Rothenberg, president of the 1994 USA World Cup, predicts that many US states and cities will refuse to comply with FIFA’s demands for ticket tax breaks.
“I think that’s a fair assumption in most jurisdictions,” he said. “Some of them, they may just add it to the price of the stadium and other things, but getting an actual concession can be difficult. In the end, it just means another cost to the host committee, the host city.”
Other states and cities have either pooled private funding or are drawing on earmarked public funding specifically earmarked for attracting large events.
Georgia has also set aside $250,000 in the budget starting July 1 for security if Atlanta wins a bid. Funds from hotel taxes collected by the Atlanta Bureau of Conventions and Visitors may also be used to support giving.
In April, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan signed a bill to increase the bond authorization for the M&T Bank Stadium, home of the Baltimore Ravens NFL and proposed World Cup site. The bill allows for up to $600 million in borrowings, up from the current $235 million limit.
In Cincinnati, Ohio, officials pledged $10 million for football-specific upgrades to Paul Brown Stadium, and another $40 million to $50 million was combined to improve the 22-year-old facility in Hamilton County negotiations for a new contract with the Bengals in the Football Association. American football.
Private business leaders in the region also said they are working to raise an additional $35 million to $50 million to enhance the onlooker experience.
Ohio created a special fund for this type of offline sporting event in 2019, and the state’s latest budget calls for up to $5 million to be pumped into it over the next two years.
Texas also has a tax-funded program designed to help cities host major sporting events, and FIFA and World Cup matches are already eligible to apply for millions.
The Major Events Compensation Program allows host cities and local organizers to apply for funds to cover costs related to the event, including any rights fees they have to pay. For the World Cup, organizers in Dallas and Houston could apply to the program to attract millions in tax money that would help cover any rights fees claimed by FIFA.
Other countries are considering private financing.
In an April letter to FIFA officials, Democratic Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf said that Philadelphia Soccer 2026 has so far raised $50 million in private funding to cover the city’s hosting responsibilities, an amount he said the state would complete.
Denver Sports Commission CEO Matthew Payne said the city estimates the cost of hosting cup games at $40-45 million, and that we’re “close to halfway in that budget.”
Payne held no taxpayer money that was involved in the bidding—though the city’s taxpayer-financed projects, such as renovations at Denver International Airport and construction of roads and light rail, were selling points.
Payne said the cost estimate includes setting up fan spaces outside the stadium, and hiring or paying for additional security and training areas for visiting teams.
Private fundraising heavy on corporate participation; He declined to reveal potential donors before Thursday’s announcement.
“We feel really and strongly that we will generate the dollars that are especially needed to provide all the elements of organizing the World Cup matches,” Payne said. “It’s double.”
The Colorado State Legislature has not allocated any money or acted on any legislation regarding the 2026 Cup.
The rest of the American regions and stadiums:
Arlington, Texas, AT&T Stadium; Atlanta, Mercedes-Benz Stadium; Baltimore, M&T Bank Stadium; Cincinnati, Paul Brown Stadium; Denver, Empower Field at Mile High; East Rutherford, NJ, MetLife Stadium; Foxboro, Massachusetts, Gillette Stadium; Houston, NRG Stadium; Englewood, CA, SoFi Stadium; Kansas City, Missouri, Arrowhead Stadium; Miami Gardens, Florida, Hard Rock Stadium; Nashville, TN, Nissan Stadium; Orlando, Florida, Camping World Stadium; Pasadena, CA, Rose Bowl; Philadelphia, Lincoln Financial Field; Santa Clara, California, Levi’s Playground; Seattle, Lumen Field.