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Volume 22 No. 35
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Forum: Battle for the World Cup and appreciating a pioneer

A couple of stories I’m keeping an eye on and a few notes from the home office:

WORLD CUP 2026: We assigned staff writer Bret McCormick to look into the bidding to host the 2026 World Cup games in the U.S. during the summer, as it seemed that in every city I visited, it was one of the most frequently discussed topics: Who would be one of the 10 cities to host matches when the tournament comes in the summer of 2026? His piece, which begins on Page 16, outlines just how competitive the landscape is for these events and the potential they offer. Unlike 1994, when U.S. Soccer had to virtually beg cities to host World Cup matches, these games now are massive draws and enable cities to look dynamic, diverse and even cool. Most of the major American cities bidding have proved they can execute around large gatherings, so I’ll be looking for a couple of elements that may make a difference. 

What will be the level of public support offered to the bid groups looking to land these matches? Also, while stadium infrastructure is largely developed, how will cities tie in hosting the event with incentives to upgrade other municipal infrastructure, like airports and roads? Finally, keep an eye on what strategy FIFA employs in its selection process. Sources close to the World Cup bid believe FIFA could group cities by regions to make it easier for fans and other stakeholders to attend — and many believe a form of geographic clustering makes sense, especially when considering the cost of experiencing the World Cup for average fans.

Overall, this promises to be one of the most ambitious and potentially successful events in the history of North American sports — 48 teams playing in a national celebration around the sport. That will likely stand until just two years later with the LA28 Games. I know six years can seem far out in the distance, but don’t overlook the promise of the World Cup 2026. 

SUPER BOWL AD SALES: The sports business has its challenges, but we need to recognize its market strength and value. A case in point is the health of Fox’s advertising sales around Super Bowl LIV. The network sold out its inventory much earlier than in previous years. Our John Ourand reported that advertisers that bought one 30-second spot were charged a stunning $5.6 million, and that the price for any 30-second spot did not drop below $5.2 million. The quick sellout was not limited to the Super Bowl, as Fox also has sold out advertising for the NFC Championship game. It’s a great endorsement of the power of the NFL and its championship events, but also of how much brands value live sports today.  No other form of programming will come close to those ad rates, or have the audience reach.

NEW VOICES UNDER 30: As you plan your holiday social schedule, I hope you will join us for our New Voices Under 30 celebration on Thursday, Dec. 12, at the Refinery Rooftop in New York City. This event, which will honor our inaugural class of recipients, will be one of the most talked about cocktail parties of the year. We will have speciality drinks, hors d’oeuvres, music and other forms of entertainment, and it provides you a great opportunity to meet the new voices in sports business. Tickets are limited, so please visit our website to buy a ticket today.

IN REMEMBRANCE: Finally, a sad note as the industry lost a true pioneer with the death of Jake Burton Carpenter late last month at the age of 65. Carpenter moved from New York City to Vermont in 1977, and lived close to the town of Manchester, where I grew up. He and his wife, Donna, were dental patients of my father, and our family watched how he created an entirely dynamic and passionate industry around snowboarding. All the ski-heads I knew considered him to be the epitome of cool. The term “authentic” gets thrown around so much that it is scripted and forced today and has become a tiresome cliché. But few people I have seen in sports embody the spirit and meaning of authenticity more than Jake.

First Look podcast, with sports business stories Abe is keeping an eye on, at the 34:18 mark:

Abraham Madkour can be reached at amadkour@sportsbusinessjournal.com.