For Dallas, landing World Cup games could be like hosting ‘six Super Bowls’

AT&T Stadium has hosted the Super Bowl, the first College Football Playoff national championship game, the NCAA men’s Final Four and WrestleMania.

On Thursday, North Texas will learn if the Cowboys’ 80,000-capacity home stadium will host perhaps its biggest event ever – the 2026 men’s World Cup.

“It’s always hard to say something is bigger than the Super Bowl, but if we get six matches, it will be like having six Super Bowls,” said FC Dallas owner Dan Hunt, who is also the Dallas 2026 host city bid chairman. “It’s so incredibly exciting to think about the opportunity that exists for our community to bring the highest level of soccer here.”

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said when he built AT&T Stadium that it wouldn’t just be for his team. Having hosted many other marquee events, including big-time boxing and some of the biggest names in music, could help Dallas beat out stiff competition for World Cup games.

“I think there’s actually more competition than there is for a Super Bowl by having a World Cup,” Jones said. “The events are great assets and have such a lasting international perspective. Now the Super Bowl has that too, but the World Cup has it in spades. ”

Monica Paul, executive director of the Dallas Sports Commission, likes Dallas’ chances of hosting “the single largest sporting event in the world.”

“I think we are the No. 1 sports destination in the country and maybe in the world, ”Paul said. “This is something that we’ve been working on for over five years, and in some instances, for 12 years. To be able to say that you’re a host city is very important and very impactful. We know the World Cup is going to have a huge economic impact for the region. ”

Dallas is among 16 US cities (including Houston) and three cities each from Canada and Mexico vying to be among the 16 bid winners that will be announced at 4 pm on FS1 by FIFA. It’s expected that FIFA will choose 10 to 12 American markets as hosts, but Hunt feels like the Dallas area has an advantage.

“Dallas is such a unique proposition to the World Cup,” he said. “We have a facility like AT&T Stadium, which is one of the greatest economic drivers of any sporting venue in the entire world. We have Globe Life Field next to it, we have Choctaw Stadium next to it, and we have Texas Live. We could create an entertainment district around AT&T Stadium that is unique and probably never seen before at any World Cup ever. ”

AT&T Stadium is the only local stadium that would host World Cup games, but Hunt said about eight other venues in D-FW could host national teams. That list includes Toyota Stadium, MoneyGram Soccer Park, the Cotton Bowl, SMU and UT-Dallas.

All that will be announced Thursday is the bid winners. Who gets to host the International Broadcast Center, which rounds will be played where and how many games each site will host will be determined later.

Hunt thinks it’s between Dallas and Atlanta for the International Broadcast Center.

“That’s going to be a tough one,” he said. “The big thing that FIFA had wanted was for all of it (the International Broadcast Center) to be under one roof. At Fair Park, we don’t necessarily have that opportunity, so they’ve been working on a number of strategies. There is a huge reinvestment going on at Fair Park, which would be ready for 2026, so it’s really 50-50. I’m not as optimistic [about that] yet, but I know we put forth a great bid.

“We’re also on the bid list for the referee center.”

There will be a watch party in the AT&T Discovery District in downtown Dallas that will include the mayors from Arlington, Frisco and Fort Worth, the mayor pro tem from Dallas, Cowboys players and executives and FC Dallas players. The festivities will begin at 3 pm

This would be the first time since 1994 that Dallas hosted the World Cup. That year, games were played at the Cotton Bowl, Fair Park hosted the International Broadcast Center and Dallas hosted a quarterfinal between Brazil and the Netherlands.

Hunt has higher hopes for 2026.

“I think this is a great soccer community that deserves to have the final,” he said. “If we get a semifinal or get the opening match, that will be an amazing win for our community.”

The Dallas Sports Commission has estimated that hosting World Cup games could provide nearly a $ 400 million impact. Hunt thinks it would be much higher.

“The economic impact of that is well into the billions,” he said. “The economic impact of the International Broadcast Center would probably be around $ 100 million if that is selected to be here. We want everything we can possibly get for this community. ”

Thursday’s announcement has been a long time coming.

“COVID delayed this whole process significantly,” Hunt said. “We probably should have known 16 or 18 months ago if we were going to be hosting.”

The Dallas area has grown into a booming soccer community, even though it is more known for the Cowboys, Mavericks, Rangers and Stars.

AT&T Stadium has hosted premier soccer matches before, including the MexTour featuring the Mexican national team. Frisco is home to FC Dallas of Major League Soccer and the National Soccer Hall of Fame, and FC Dallas players are in the running to make the 2022 World Cup roster and would also be candidates for the 2026 team.

How big is this opportunity?

“It is dynamic today because of the visibility and because of the international visibility to have this platform to show this area off, as the great sports capital that it is,” Jones said. “It is a big deal. You cannot exaggerate the impact it will have on putting our area, the Dallas area, in a great light as it relates to a world competition. ”

Staff writer Calvin Watkins contributed to this report.

The cities that are vying to be among the 16 hosts for World Cup games in 2026:

United States: Dallas, Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Cincinnati, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, New York / New Jersey, Orlando, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle

Canada: Edmonton, Toronto, Vancouver

Mexico: Guadalajara, Mexico City, Monterrey

On Twitter: @DMNGregRiddle

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