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Denver continues push to become host city for 2026 FIFA Men’s World Cup

Posted: 7:26 AM, Jul 12, 2019
Updated: 2019-07-12 09:26:58-04
Hancock and Polis with new FIFA World Cup statue

DENVER — Denver is ready to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup — that was the strong message coming from Denver officials and soccer leaders Thursday morning outside Broncos Stadium at Mile High.

At the press conference, Denver Mayor Hancock said the city has already hosted world-class sporting events, including Major League Soccer, Major League Baseball, NBA and NHL All-Star games, Stanley Cup games, USA Pro Cycling Challenge, Grand Prix of Denver and more. The city would love the opportunity to welcome soccer fans from around the world, he said.

FIFA has awarded the 2026 World Cup to a joint North American bid, which includes the United States, Canada and Mexico. Three Canadian cities, three Mexican cities and 10 American cities will ultimately host the games. As of Thursday, 17 cities — including Denver — in the United States were vying for the 10 openings.

The Mile High City wouldn’t be the only place to benefit from the games being held within city limits, said Nate Shotts, the CEO of Colorado Soccer Association.

“Our surrounding neighbors — Utah, New Mexico, Nebraska, Wyoming and many others — are equally supportive of us hosting the FIFA World Cup games,” he said.

Gov. Jared Polis, who had announced an invitation for the USWNT champions to visit the Colorado State Capitol earlier that day, said the economic analysis of the World Cup is significant.

The Denver metro area would see more than $300 million in new economic activity from hosting the World Cup, which would support 2,500 jobs and generate $90 million in earnings, he said.

“But beyond that, the tournament brings something that’s really priceless,” he said. “Beyond money, it brings excitement. It brings attention to Colorado’s national beauty on an international stage. It brings pride. It brings patriotism. And it brings a resurgence in sport and participation that is really priceless.”

Padraig Smith, executive vice president and general manager of the Colorado Rapids, said the tournament would also provide inspiration to Colorado’s youth soccer players.

“The impact of the FIFA World Cup on future generations of soccer players cannot be overstated,” he said. “Millions of young kids recently spent the last few weeks watching the women’s World Cup and dreaming that they too, one day, could stand up there on that world stage.”

It’s no simple task for a city to host the World Cup games, but Denver has shown it can hold international soccer matches, and do it well, Smith said. The city has hosted more than 30 international soccer events with national and club teams.

“Ultimately, Colorado shows up again and again for soccer," he said. "We at the Colorado Rapids are incredibly proud to be a part of this great soccer community in Denver and in Colorado. We are fully supportive of this bid to bring the FIFA World Cup to Denver in 2026.”

Bob Contiguglia, who is on the bid committee chair and is a former president of U.S. Soccer, said soccer is “without question” the most popular sport in the world. On any given day worldwide, more than 265 million people will actively participate in soccer through organized leagues and clubs, he said.

The number of fans is even greater. Every four years, more than 3.5 billion people watch the World Cup — almost half of the world’s population, he said.

“For perspective, the NFL Super Bowl draws approximately 150 million people worldwide,” Contiguglia said.

He said the games would prove an “incredible opportunity” to showcase Denver and Colorado to the rest of the world.

“I believe we are ready to host the world,” he said.

At the conclusion of the press conference, Hancock and Polis unveiled a new statue — a giant soccer ball with the proposed Denver FIFA logo — outside Mile High.