The biggest World Cup winner may just be Kansas City

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The US cities slated to host the 2026 World Cup – to be held in North America – include most of the globally powerful names you might expect: Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco.

And then there’s Kansas City.

Kansas City became the sole representative of the American Midwest after Chicago and Detroit – both 1994 hosts – fell out earlier in the selection process, and Cincinnati missed out on the final cut. It’s impressive to beat bigger, more well-known cities like Washington, Denver and Nashville. But it will also be an economic catalyst for the city at a time when migration trends in America are shifting inland, and in a decade when there is a rush to find more affordable housing than on either coast.

Just as Atlanta clinched the 1996 Summer Olympics, hosting the World Cup in Kansas City is expected to be a growth engine benefiting the city that straddles both Missouri and Kansas, as well as all of central region.

The history of American population migration over the past decade has been one of people leaving high-cost cities on the coasts for cheaper housing. At first, that meant people moved from California to places like Portland, Oregon; Denver and Austin. It also meant people were leaving the northeast for places like Nashville, Raleigh, Charlotte, Atlanta and Miami.

But now, after all this migration, these cities are also expensive. And soaring mortgage rates this year make the issue of housing affordability all the more pressing. A 20% down payment on a median-priced home in California with a mortgage rate of 6.25% would mean a monthly payment of $5,000, an amount that is simply not possible for most families.

That’s why I thought and wrote about other places that could benefit in a country where housing has become unaffordable in a growing number of communities. I’ve noted how northwest Arkansas attracts the kind of people who have already been drawn to Austin and Boulder, Colorado. And how remote working is a boon for college towns that are great places to live but previously lacked strong job markets.

In this context, hosting the World Cup will be a catalyst for Kansas City. On its own, it doesn’t have the growth of northwest Arkansas or the buzz of Austin. What it has are major league professional sports franchises in baseball, soccer, and football that provide support beyond the city and state. Fans from six states consider Kansas City Chiefs football team and Sporting Kansas City football team as their favorite teams. This makes Kansas City something of a sports capital of Omaha, Des Moines and northwestern Arkansas, all of which are growing faster and are only three hours away.

Kansas City already considers itself America’s soccer capital, and Sporting Kansas City enjoyed a 125-game sell-out streak in the 2010s. The city’s National Women’s Soccer League franchise also announced last year plans for the first purpose-built stadium for an NWSL franchise.

The combination of people moving to the middle of the country in search of cheaper housing, along with the growth of soccer in America, and Kansas City’s reputation as a regional sports center and soccer mecca have made it a city ​​to watch even before the announcement of the World Cup. . Now the World Cup is raising the ceiling of what is possible.

I see the potential firsthand as a resident of Atlanta, where natives and transplants still speak of the transformative impact the 1996 Summer Olympics had on the city. This not only brought infrastructure and new developments, but a wave of migrants that laid the foundation for future growth. I doubt I would have moved here if the Olympics hadn’t come to town – the changes after 1996 made it attractive enough to convince me to choose it over other locations I was considering.

Kansas City is now a World Cup city. For residents of about 15 states, it’s the World Cup city closest to where they live. And it also has the cheapest accommodation in any of the 11 US World Cup host cities. It’s hard to put a value on that, but it’s important. For the other 10 US host cities, the World Cup will be a month-long celebration. For Kansas City, it’s an opportunity to capitalize on the growth of the new core and claim its position as the region’s cultural hub.

More from Bloomberg Opinion:

Paris stumbles in its pre-Olympic stress test: Lionel Laurent

US farmland is hot, but it’s not good for farms: Adam Minter

Driving Growth of Remote Work Opportunities for College Towns: Conor Sen

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Editorial Board or of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Conor Sen is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is the founder of Peachtree Creek Investments and may have an interest in the areas he writes about.

More stories like this are available at bloomberg.com/opinion

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