Mayor Kenney’s sports fandom isn’t just limited to the local professional teams. He follows the world’s game too.
Kenney has watched soccer’s popularity grow rapidly in Philadelphia during his time in office, with Lincoln Financial Field hosting a number of big-time games. He likes the sport not only for how it’s played, but for how it projects Philadelphia to the world.
“I love the World Cup — I love soccer, I love European soccer, American soccer,” he said. “It’s terrific for us as a city to continue creating relationships and building relationships with foreign countries and cities.”
On Wednesday, the city took a step toward hosting its biggest games ever, when FIFA voted to have North America host the 2026 men’s World Cup. Philadelphia is one of 23 potential cities in the tournament’s bid book, and is a strong favorite to make the cut to be an official host when the time comes.
The Linc is a big reason why, and not just because it’s a great stage for soccer. Ease of access by public transportation and highways is a big plus for tournament organizers. While some Philadelphians might not like SEPTA too much, FIFA views the Broad Street Line as an asset.
“When you live here, it’s easy to be negative with things,” Kenney said. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and the closer you are sometimes to things, the more cranky you can get. But SEPTA does a pretty good job.”
Kenney is also excited that the city has proposed the forthcoming new park at Penn’s Landing as a site for an outdoor fan festival that will host viewing parties and other events during the tournament. He thinks the city will look as good then as it did during last year’s NFL draft.
“I called it ‘NFL Woodstock’ — everybody was real chill, and even people from other cities and other teams’ supporters were getting along with our folks,” Kenney said. “I think Penn’s Landing is the perfect place for it [during the World Cup], and I’m looking forward to having the same kind of experience.”
That reference gave him an opening to take aim at President Trump, as he loves to do, especially on matters of diversity.
“This president wants to wall us off from the world and retreat into our shell, but this international event is so big and so overwhelming that even he won’t be able to put a bad spin on it,” Kenney said.
With the bid race finally over, Kenney and the rest of Philadelphia can officially dream of welcoming the world’s biggest sporting event to this city eight years from now. And this time, Philadelphia won’t be an underdog.
“We’ve been running big events now for quite some time, from the Pope to the DNC to the NFL draft to the Eagles’ Super Bowl parade,” Kenney said, “I think we’re in pretty good shape.”