To new KC2026 executive director, World Cup in Kansas City is ‘just different for us’

As newly named executive director of KC2026, Katherine Holland will be heading up the city’s efforts to play host to World Cup games.

Katherine Holland grew up in Kansas City and has worked in New York City and the Bay Area. All of those markets will play host to FIFA World Cup games in 2026.

As the new executive director of KC2026, Holland is convinced Kansas City’s efforts will be unsurpassed when the globe’s biggest sporting event arrives in three years.

“It’s a very different opportunity for Kansas City because of our size, our collaborative nature, our regionality,” Holland said. “Love New York, lived in San Francisco. I think there’s a ‘of course, we’re going to be a World Cup city’ there (with those larger sites).

“It’s just different for us (in KC). It means something different ...”

Last year, Kansas City was one of 11 sites in the United States and 16 across North America to be named a host city for the next FIFA men’s World Cup. The matches will be played in June and July, but the number of games each city will host hasn’t been determined.

Holland spent the past year as Kansas City’s World Cup bid director, so she knows the territory. She also has worked as director of marketing and sales for the Kansas City Sports Commission & Foundation and WIN for KC.

In 2017, Holland served as executive director for the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Kansas City, and she helped lead Kansas City’s bid to land to the 2023 NFL Draft at Union Station.

“When Katherine assumed the role of executive director of the 2017 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, it was immediately apparent that she had the experience and unique skill-set to help elevate Kansas City’s reputation and make us even more competitive,” said Kathy Nelson, president and CEO of the KC Sports Commission and VisitKC.

Holland said her new duties involve “moving from planning to concept and execution,” and working with FIFA, which is setting up a World Cup 2026 base in Miami.

High on the agenda are issues involving transportation.

“If we don’t get that right, that could mar people’s entire experience. ... Transportation is a big priority for me in these early days.”

As for fan fests, Holland said it remains possible that Kansas City could use multiple locations. FIFA officials were in town during the NFL Draft.

Holland is also thinking about how the World Cup can leave a lasting impact on the region.

“We have a contractual obligation to deliver an event to FIFA,” Holland said. “We also have an obligation as a city not to squander this opportunity, to think about the legacy and the changes that can happen in around the metro area that should be happening anyway but could be expedited because we have this big event coming.”