The biggest winner of the World Cup may be Kansas City

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The US cities destined to host the 2026 World Cup – scheduled to be held in North America – include most of the strong global names you might expect: Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco.

Then there is Kansas City.

Kansas City emerged as the sole US representative in the Midwest after Chicago and Detroit – both hosts of 1994 – clashed earlier in the selection process, and Cincinnati missed the final cut. It’s pretty impressive to beat bigger and more famous cities like Washington, Denver, and Nashville. But it will also be an economic stimulus for the city at a time when America’s immigration trends are shifting inland, and in a decade where there is a scramble to find housing more affordable than on any coast.

Just like Atlanta’s landing in the 1996 Summer Olympics, the role of hosting the World Cup in Kansas City should be a growth engine for a city that spans both Missouri and Kansas, as well as the entire heartland.

The story of American population emigration over the past decade has been one of people moving away from high-cost cities on the coasts in search of cheaper housing. At first this meant people were leaving California for places like Portland, Oregon; Denver and Austin. It also means people are leaving the Northeast for places like Nashville, Raleigh, Charlotte, Atlanta, and Miami.

But now after all this migration these cities are also very expensive. The surge in mortgage rates this year makes the issue of housing affordability even more pressing. A down payment of 20% on a mid-priced California home with a mortgage rate of 6.25% means a monthly payment of $5,000, an amount that most families simply can’t make.

That’s why I’ve been thinking and writing about other places you could benefit from in a country where housing has become unaffordable in an increasing number of societies. I’ve noticed how Northwest Arkansas attracts the kinds of people who were previously drawn to Austin and Boulder, Colorado. And how telecommuting is a boon to college towns that are great places to live but previously lacked strong labor markets.

In this context, hosting the World Cup will be a catalyst for Kansas City. On its own, it has no Northwest Arkansas growth or Austin hype. What it does have are major sports franchises for professionals in baseball, soccer, and soccer that provide out-of-town and state support. Fans in six states consider the Kansas City Chiefs FC and Sporting Kansas City to be their favorite team. This makes Kansas City somewhat of the sports capital of Omaha, Des Moines, and Northwest Arkansas, all of which are growing faster and only a three-hour drive away.

Kansas City already considers itself the capital of American football, and Sporting Kansas City had a sell-out streak of 125 games in 2010. The city’s Women’s National Football League franchise also announced plans last year to create the first purpose-built stadium for the NWSL franchise.

The pool of people moving downtown in search of cheaper housing, plus the growth of soccer in America, plus Kansas City’s reputation as a regional sports hub and soccer hotspot made it a city worth seeing even before the World Cup was announced. Now the World Cup raises the bar for what is possible.

I see direct potential as a resident of Atlanta, where Indigenous people and transplants alike are still talking about the transformative impact of the 1996 Summer Olympics on the city. It not only brought new infrastructure and development, but the wave of immigrants that created the basis for future growth. I doubt I would have moved here had the Olympics not come to town – changes after 1996 made it attractive enough to convince me to choose it over the other places I’ve considered.

Kansas City is now a World Cup city. For residents of 15 or so states, it’s the closest World Cup city to where they live. It also has the cheapest accommodation of any of the 11 US host cities for the World Cup. It’s hard to put a value on that, but it’s important. For the other 10 US host cities, the World Cup will last for a month. For Kansas City, it’s an opportunity to take advantage of the new core’s growth and claim its claim as the area’s cultural center.

More from Bloomberg Opinion:

Paris stumbles pre-Olympic stress test: Lionel Laurent

US farmland is hot, but that’s not great for a farmer: Adam Minter

Remote work provides growth engine for college cities: Connor Sen

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

Connor Senn is a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion. He is the founder of Peachtree Creek Investments and may have a say in the areas he writes about.

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