ARLINGTON, Texas — It’s been nearly 30 years since the world’s largest sporting event made its way to North Texas, when the Cotton Bowl hosted games of the 1994 FIFA World Cup.
On Sunday, city and sports leaders across D-FW lobbied FIFA to bring the great tournament back for the 2026 World Cup in North America, with games at AT&T Stadium.
“We wanted this to be an asset to North Texas that we could host major events and of course it doesn’t get any bigger, any bigger than the World Cup,” Stephen Jones, vice president of the Dallas Cowboys, said. “We put our resources into this for moments like this which is to step up and host the world’s greatest event.”
On Saturday, FIFA officials toured the FC Dallas facilities in Frisco, including the National Soccer Hall of Fame.
Dallas is one of 17 US cities competing for 10 host spots.
“No region prides itself on hosting big time sporting events more like Dallas,” Monica Paul, executive director of the Dallas Sports Commission, said. “We do it well. We do it often and we like to do them big.”
Paul said ideally they’ll get six to eight matches, but they haven’t been shy about saying they want the World Cup Final and international broadcast center in North Texas.
“We have so much infrastructure, so many assets, I mean we are the right fit for the World Cup here in North Texas,” Paul said.
The 2018 World Cup Final had nearly four times the viewing audience of the 2021 Super Bowl.
“We want to deliver magical experiences to each and every person that’s involved,” Colin Smith, FIFA’s chief competitions and events officer, said.
Smith said narrowing down cities involves reviewing everything from transportation to weather, but most important is the field or pitch, which is larger than an American football field. Dallas showed off what an elevated field could look like to provide more space while possibly lower capacity by roughly 1,000 or more seats.
“It’s something that we always look at, but the total priority is how do we get the pitch right and then we work around that,” Smith said. “The infrastructure is there and what we look at is the glue. How do we bring everything together on match days and non-match days.”
FIFA officials said they believe the 2026 World Cup will be the first cup ever where a stadium doesn’t have to be built for competition. Along with the 10 U.S. cities, three Canadian and three Mexican cities will also host games. Fort Worth’s Sundance Square is being looked at as a possible Fan Festival location for D-FW’s bid.
The economic impact to the region is estimated at $400 million and 3,000 new jobs, but its benefit goes beyond dollars.
“Can we imagine what a 2026 world cup would do for soccer in North Texas?” FC Dallas President and Dallas 2026 Committee Chairman Dan Hunt said. “I think the sky is the limit on that.”
FIFA plans to announce the winning cities in the first or second quarter of 2022. The region that boasts about its big and bright stars hopes to bring back the greatest spectacle in sports.
“We believe we can show the world how great soccer fans are in North Texas,” Jones said.