Feb 15, 2022 - Sports

World Cup bid could bring big bucks to Philadelphia

Illustration of a soccer ball made out of a patchwork of different bill denominations.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Philadelphia could see as much as $262 million in direct visitor spending from hosting World Cup matches in 2026, according to the nonprofit coordinating the city's bid.

Driving the news: Philly is one of 17 U.S. cities vying to host between five and six matches over the tournament spanning 30 days.

Why it matters: The World Cup is a massive sport tourism event that would bring international attention to the city and draw hundreds of thousands of people.

  • For perspective, hosting the tournament's matches would dwarf the roughly $56 million in visitor spending the city raked in when the NFL Draft was held here in 2017.

The big picture: The 2026 World Cup will be the first year the games are expanded from 64 to 80 matches.

  • The U.S. will host 60 games, while Canada and Mexico will each host 10 matches.
  • Other U.S. metros bidding to host games include Los Angeles, Dallas, Miami, New York/New Jersey and the San Francisco Bay Area.

By the numbers: Philadelphia Soccer 2026 said an economic impact survey shows the city could enjoy $460 million in total economic impact from hosting, which includes a combination of tourism spending and other investments.

  • Visitor spending is expected to range from $147-$262 million, factoring in lodging, food and beverage, retail, entertainment and transportation.
  • Approximately 450,000 total attendees would come to the city over that time, and as many as 3,500 new jobs would be created.

Zoom in: If the city won its bid, Lincoln Financial Field would be the site to host the World Cup matches.

  • Training sites would be scattered throughout the region, too.

What they're saying: Philadelphia has the "pedigree to host this type of international, mega event," said Meg Kane, bid coordinator for Philadelphia Soccer 2026.

  • The city has hosted massive events in the past, including Pope Francis' visit in 2015 and the NFL Draft.
  • "Philadelphia has built a tremendous resume in hosting these types of events, and as a sports town, we think we can deliver an even greater event," Kane said.

Between the lines: The financial impact study was calculated before the pandemic hit Philadelphia in 2020.

  • Yes, but: Kane said the city is expected to see a full economic recovery by 2026, so the study’s findings remained the same.

What's next: FIFA could make its final decision on host cities as soon as April, Kane said.


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